India's successful global campaign to project its economic successes and high growth rates is threatening to choke off funds to thousands of orphans living in facilities operated by one of the country's largest caregivers.
This is because, explains SOS Children's Villages, which provides home to over 6,000 orphans across the country, European donors have decided India has enough resources to meet its needs. “Earlier we used to get so much money from Europe that at times it was difficult to absorb. But now, things have changed and the world feels that India has enough rich people who can donate for its social sector,'' Rakesh Jinsi, secretary-general of SOS Children's Villages in India told The Hindu . “So far, only 20 per cent of the funds have come from domestic sources, but now this has to increase substantially if we are to sustain the project.”
India's growth rate of almost 9 per cent, coupled with global recession, has led many donors to consider targeting their support more narrowly on needy pockets in Africa and Latin America.
Started in 1964 with an SOS Children's Village at Faridabad, the organisation now has 33 villages across the country where over 6,000 children are being looked after under the unique concept of a family headed by a mother who brings up 8-10 children at a time. This figure is expected to swell many times over by 2016, according to an SOS assessment, with the largest number of children coming from internally disturbed areas and those with high poverty levels.
Two SOS villages came up in Jammu and Kashmir after terrorist violence claimed tens of thousands of lives, while one each has been set up in Assam and Chhattisgarh.
One of the two villages in Bhopal is meant exclusively for disabled children, who will have to be taken care of for a lifetime unlike as in the other villages, where children leave the home after becoming adults. It houses 92 children whose disabilities range from minor physical impairment to severe cerebral palsy, for which they need trained mothers and special school facilities. Worse, these children are not accepted by society, even if they are skilled, due to their occasional odd behaviour.
Less than a quarter of the funds raised to help these children within India comes from corporate houses. “The long-term sustainability of these assets is now an issue for which we are now becoming visible and talking about our work,'' Mr Jinsi explained. In addition to launching major fundraising drives, the management has substantially curtailed establishment expenses, streamlined governance and enhanced transparency.
The SOS Villages have had their share of bad publicity for a few incidents of sexual harassment and embezzlement in the past couple of years. “We have to be practical. Despite our zero tolerance of child abuse, we cannot overlook the fact that we work with 1,800 people who come from various backgrounds. We have taken immediate action whenever such incidents were reported,'' he said. On the forefront of the allegations is that of inmate Prem Kumar, who has lodged several complaints against the management. He is also fighting a defamation case filed against him by the organisation.