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Home > India > News > Report

Sealed out, NGOs in New Delhi cry foul

May 13, 2008 03:16 IST

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Non-government organisations in the national capital New Delhi have been sealed out since May 6. The reason: The city's planners never envisaged NGOs to be part of the city. They also never planned for NGOs to be operating out of residential areas.

And now, the 12 sealed NGOs will remain so till at least July when the matter comes up before the Supreme Court. In the mean time, closure is staring at more NGOs in the Capital as the court today refused to give an interim order on a submission by about 50 NGOs seeking a stop to the ongoing drive targeting NGOs.

Organisations like Navdanya, SoS Children's Villages, Wildlife Protection Society of India have been without offices since the Municipal Corporation of Delhi sealed their offices in South Delhi localities like Vasant Kunj, Malviya Nagar and Greater Kailash.

"Things were fine till the master plan was revised recently. The MCD had earlier issued an interim order allowing NGOs to continue operations wherever they were and providing immunity from sealing, as most of them were implementing government programmes for people apart from programmes funded by various agencies," says Kalyani Menon Sen of Jagori, one of the petitioners against the sealing drive, targeting NGOs.

The NGOs have appealed to Union Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy and Minister of State for Urban Development Ajay Maken on May 12 to allow them to operate from non-institutional areas and inclusion for such a provision in the Delhi Master Plan.

The majority of non-profit organisations in Delhi, as in other cities, do in fact, operate out of premises in non-institutional areas to provide essential services -- education, health, social welfare, crisis support, emergency relief -- to poor and marginalised citizens of Delhi.

Many, if not most of these citizens are themselves forced by the lack of affordable housing to fend for themselves in so-called 'illegal' settlements, a letter to the ministry says.

Sen said that their only hope now was from the ministry and Reddy who seemed receptive to their request for a possible cut-off date for excluding NGOs from non institutional area.

The MCD made an exception for NGOs in the period interim to notification of the revised master plan. The monitoring committee appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee the sealing drive had ruled in 2006 that NGOs would be allowed to function even if they are located in residential areas.

These observations were notified by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi in September 2006 in a circular to its Zonal Commissioners. This followed an appeal made to the Supreme Court monitoring committee for de-sealing of an office of the USAID functioning from 2, Poorvi Marg, Vasant Vihar.

Now this order is defunct says Sen as it was issued as an interim order.

Says a representative of Programme for Social Action -- an organisation anchoring many people's movements on behalf of the National Alliance of People's Movement from Delhi: "The majority of charitable trusts, societies and other non-profit organisations in Delhi operate out of premises in non-institutional or residential areas.

This is not so much a matter of choice as a reflection of the inadequate provision of designated institutional spaces. Space in commercial complexes is prohibitively expensive and completely out of reach for non-profit organisations that most often operate with minimal funds."

NGOs describe the sealing drive as contrary to the Bhagidari movement, a citizen government partnership that Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has been championing in the capital.



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