The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Indian Missionaries Get Rs.600 crores for Tsunami Conversions from UK

By S.Anand
Outlook India

"You can create 10 new Nagapattinams with the kind of money the NGOs have."
-- A. Selvamani, fisherman, Akkarapettai

As of 9 November 2005, according to Relief Web (www.reliefweb.int), the commitments, contributions and pledges for tsunami-related work routed via UN agencies and INGOs from the world over account for USD 6,138,895,063 (more than USD 6 billion). Compiled by OCHA (the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) on the basis of information provided by donors and appealing organisations, this works to Rs 28,853 crores. About 40 percent of these are private donations. AlertNet, a Reuters-managed site that runs a 'Global Pledge-o-meter', almost doubles the figure to USD 11,234,100,000.

The Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) in London, a consortium of 12 UK-based INGOs, raised a record £350 million (Rs. 2800 crores) under its Tsunami Earthquake Appeal. Of this, India is a recipient of Rs 565 crores (see Table). According to a senior INGO official, India is likely to be a recipient of at least 20 percent of the overall Rs 28,853 crores (the lower world estimate). The tsunami-related NGO aid flow into India would then be in the range of a minimum of Rs 6,000 crores. It could go up to Rs 8,000 crores. Tamil Nadu being the most affected, and since the government has been eager to incorporate NGOs, close to 70 percent of these funds would have made their way, making it a recipient of a minimum of Rs 4,000 crores which could be used up to the next three years. Of the Tamil Nadu share, the worst affected Nagapattinam district would be the recipient of at least Rs 3,000 crores. All these lower-end estimates.

Of the overall fund flow to India, according to one estimate, close to Rs 400 crores would have accrued to the Catholic church (CASA, Caritas, CRS) and about Rs 200 crores to Protestant groups such as World Vision.

In Nagapattinam, in January 2005, there were 600 NGOs working. Today, there are 193 NGOs registered with the NGO Coordination and Resource Centre (NCRC), but more than a hundred NGOs work without coordinating with the NCRC. The NGOs, ironically, have injected life into the Nagapattinam economy. Says V. Vivekandandan, chief executive of South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS), instrumental in establishing NCRC: "In a state that has seen 61 per cent urbanisation, Nagapattinam has recorded only 14 per cent. The economy here remains largely rural, Nagapattinam is caught in a time-warp." Now with the strong NGO contingent, the district is being artificially fast-forwarded into the future.

In Karaikal, the office of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is located in a bungalow rented for Rs 33,000 per month. MSF has offices in Pondicherry and Nagapattinam too. Two new Boleros and a Qualis bear testimony to the INGO's 'field-work' in 30 tsunami-affected villages in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam. The World Vision office in Nagapattinam has rented a building for Rs 7,500. It would have fetched Rs 2,000 pre-tsunami. In Nagapattinam, the resourceful broker G. Anandan has rented offices and homes for more than 50 NGOs and the people who work for them. One of his clients is the NGO Coordination and Resource Centre (NCRC), a nodal agency established under UNDP's supervision, housed in a sea-facing building rented for Rs 13,500 per month. NCRC has hired two office buildings and six residential ones for its staff. "The rents in Nagapattinam and neighbouring Karaikal have gone up fourfold," says an understandably delighted Anandan. As far as Annie George, NCRC coordinator, is concerned: "The general infrastructure in Nagapattinam has improved post-tsunami. Power cuts have come down and the roads are much better." The district administration certainly values the opinions of cash-rich NGOs which have made Nagapattinam their temporary home.

An intelligent estimate of the number of vehicles - Boleros, Scorpios, Tata Safaris, Qualises - procured by NGOs post-tsunami would be 80. Of these, a majority would have be servicing Nagapattinam and Cuddalore. Most of the vehicles would be disposed in less than a year. Says Eve Richard, field coordinator for MSF, "We are an emergency organisation. We will leave in a few months, but our partners will work." The fuel consumption of these SUV guzzlers could perhaps meet the daily kerosene needs of the thousands of households in the temporary shelters.

In the early weeks of the tsunami crisis, there was great concern over the orphaned children and issues of adoption and child-trafficking. Over 11 months, 376 affected villages in TN have been treated as 'orphans' which the NGOs have clamoured to 'adopt'. The 'adopters' sometimes neglect and abuse, and sometimes pamper their 'children'. The NGOs certainly have not proved to be good parents.

UK-based Disaster Emergency Committee's Contribution
(to India from its overall Rs 2800 crores)
Contributing Agency Rupees (crores)
Action Aid 60.46
CAFOD 126.31
CARE 18.44
Christian Aid 84.48
Concern India 2.93
Oxfam India 31.57
Save the Children 46.40
Tearfund* 23.02
World Vision 146.40
HelpAge India 36.28

Total 576.29

(*Comprising Discipleship Centre (DC), Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief (EFICOR) and Salvation Army)
Source www.tsunami.dec.org.uk

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