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Special Address of His Excellency Shri. Balmiki Prasad Singh, Governor of Sikkim At The General Body Meeting of the Indo-Global Social Service Society (IGSSS) Held at Hotel Tashi Delek, Gangtok on Tuesday, the 8th May 2012.


Honoured delegates and guests of the Indo-Global Social Service Society (IGSSS) who are gathered here today


Let me welcome you to our beautiful Himalayan State. I hope Gangtok’s peace and tranquility have allowed you to concentrate in your deliberations and arrive at far-reaching decisions that will help the people to better their lives.

I am informed that through the years, IGSSS, has evolved as a major NGO in the development sector in India with presence in 17 States of the country. Through its 3 zonal offices in Kolkata, Baroda and Assam, the IGSSS is running effective programmes to ensure socio- economic development and empowerment of the poor and marginalized communities in India. It is also engaged in relief and disaster management activities.

Role of NGOs in Development
NGOs, by virtue of being located at grass-root level, moulded in local ethos, flexible and participatory, are very successful in reaching out to the target groups. NGOs, both in rural and urban areas, are now coming forward to assist in areas like natural resource management (NRM), women and child welfare, social empowerment, forest management, tribal issues, rural development, education, health and food. 

One of the reasons attributed to the success of NGOs is their inclusive approach, which means that even the poorest and most marginalized people are involved in the decision-making and development processes. With their engagements at the grassroots, they help to foster local institutions and self help centers, adding to the efforts of their own Governments. They are important facilitators and catalysts in bringing about qualitative changes in people’s lives in India and in the developing world. At times, they have proved to be more responsive than local Government establishments, especially, in raising awareness and addressing social and gender equity issues.

As you may well be aware, the nomenclature "non-governmental organization" came into popular use with the establishment of the United Nations Organization in 1945. The UN Charter specifically stipulates in Article 71 (Chapter 10)  for a consultative role for organizations which are neither the government bodies nor the member states of the U.N. Today, several NGOs are global in character and in the forefront in offering humanitarian services in areas ravaged by war, famine and disease. There are also NGOs which operate at the local level being area and subject specific in character and doing significant work in directly helping the people.

Role of IGSSS in Development and Crisis Management
The 18th September earthquake caused untold miseries to the Sikkimese people entailing loss of life and property. Your organization under the leadership of your distinguished President Ambassador Fabian came forward to provide assistance. In fact, your organization was the first was to reach north Sikkim, the worst affected district in the State. It provided valuable assistance by making an early assessment of damages and in identifying immediate requirements. It also made available much needed material resources in tandem with government agencies particularly the State Government and the Indian Army.

I am glad to learn that the programmes undertaken by the IGSSS in the North-East are designed to address the needs of the region. Observers of north-east India are well aware of the challenges coming in the way of sustainable development on account of social conflicts often arising from claims over natural wealth and resources. This gets further aggravated by natural disasters in the form of floods, droughts, earthquakes and landslides. The floods are a common feature, particularly in the Brahmaputra valley every year. One of the requirements of agriculture based economy is to ensure quality seeds to farmers on time. In this connection, Seed banks set up by your organization in Assam and  elsewhere have proved to be helpful.

Your organization also responded rapidly to the fire that occurred in Narsingpara’s Bru refugee camp in Tripura on 19th March, 2011, which killed 18 people and destroyed thousands of houses. It assisted the State administration in relief operations by the mobilization of its own men and resources. Your distribution of much needed aid material worth approximately Rs. 45 lakhs to the affected families has been well appreciated. 

Gandhiji’s call for Voluntarism-a precursor to India’s NGOs
The freedom struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi was deeply concerned with all round development of our society and though voluntary efforts. Gandhiji himself set up NGO units at different places to cater to requirements of the people in respect of food, clothing, and housing. His call inspired his followers to work voluntarily on social and economic programmes for the betterment of the poor in rural India, especially, in the development of handicrafts and Village Industries. Mention may be made of Harijan Sevak Sangh, Gramodyog Sangh, Hindustan Talim Sangh, Adivasi Seva Mandals in this behalf.

Gandhiji’s famous talisman continues to be relevant to present day NGOs when he said- “I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away.”

NGOs and Government – Corporation Collaboration
An encouraging trend is the growing relationship between NGOs and corporations, which is helping to solve the problem of financing. NGOs provide expertise and experience while Corporations provide funds for financing and sustaining development activities through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes.

Nowadays, Governments also treat NGOs as partners in development to complement their own programmes. Towards this, activities of NGOs are integrated and institutionalized with Government run programmes. In India, the Central and State governments are making funds directly available to NGOs from their over hundreds of schemes; especially in their women and child development programmes.

Sikkim’s own environmental policy is an example in NGO-Government collaboration. The Joint Forestry Management Committees (JFMC) and Eco Development Committees (EDC) are collaborations between NGOs and the Government, where they encourage people to participate in protection and management of forests with the view that forests are shared wealth.  They also promote eco- tourism to provide alternate livelihood means to people in the fringes of forests and bio-sphere reserves who depend on the forests for sustenance.  The State’s Green Mission and Ten Minutes to Earth programmes also rely heavily on NGOs to appeal to the people to participate in providing green cover to public places such as road avenues, institutional lands, parks etc. In these programmes, the Forest Department provides planting materials whereas NGOs support with plantation and post plantation care.

Conclusion
I am sure you will devise new ways in the light of your experiences to serve the people more effectively. In such an event, this Sikkim meet could acquire special significance in evolution of your own organization.

Thank you.

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