"We feel as if we are at the end of the line," he told PTI. Verma said his organisation used to get grants from many companies under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and even from individuals, especially during March as it was the end of the financial year.
Several NGOs working in the disability sector are facing severe financial crunch as most of the funds and donations they would earlier get has been diverted towards tackling the COVID-19 crisis. Prashant Verma, general secretary, National Association for the Blind, says he could just pay 65 per cent salary to his employees in the last two months due to financial crunch and if no fresh donations are made he does not have any money to pay his 120 staff members this month.
“We feel as if we are at the end of the line,” he told PTI. Verma said his organisation used to get grants from many companies under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and even from individuals, especially during March as it was the end of the financial year.
“But this year we didn’t get any money. Some of the companies, which even committed to us, are saying that this time they have to think about their own survival. Many individuals (who earlier donated) don’t have money to support us. A lot of the money is diverted to COVID-19,” he said.
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As per the Census 2011, in India, 2.68 crore people were ‘disabled’, which was 2.21 per cent of the total population of the country. Madhu Singhal, social activist and founder of organisation serving people with disabilities Mitra Jyothi, shares similar concerns.
“This is a very new situation for us and it has just been one month but we will face difficulty in the coming months because we know the coronavirus crisis will not get over soon. We are dependent upon CSR funds and general donations but there has been no donation at all in the past one month,” Singhal said.
“Maybe we can manage for the next few months but after that we are not sure what we will do. We are a 30-year-old organisation and we have some funds but fully running the organisation is a very big problem,” she said.
Anil Mudgal, founding member of Arushi, which is an organisation working with people with disability, said whatever funds his organisation used to get has completely stopped.
“We don’t know what will happen from next month. We are tense. We are looking for different ways (to sustain),” he said. Chetan Sharma, managing trustee of Udbhav Foundation, said another issue is that the profits of companies have been affected due to the coronavirus crisis and many have stopped making CSR contributions to NGOs working in the social sector.
“We are not able to understand how to sustain ourselves. Everyone’s priority is coronavirus. We are not getting any funds and on humanitarian grounds we cannot ask our employees to go. it is a very big issue for us,” Sharma said.
“Earlier, every sector used to get its contribution accordingly but now all the focus is on coronavirus. We fully understand it is the priority of the hour but it should not be at the cost of others,” he noted.
Bhushan Punani, executive secretary, Blind People’s Association, however, believes that there is a need for these NGOs to diversify themselves and modify their approach as per requirement of the time. “In my organisation, we are known for relief work. Whenever there is a disaster we work towards providing relief and (in view of COVID-19 crisis) we have been involved in distributing masks and anaj kits and we have been getting funds so it is up to NGOs to change their area of work according to time,” he said.
Punani said that if NGOs do not get into anything related to COVID-19 relief work then their funding will be very adversely affected. “My understanding is that NGOs also need to modify their approach as per requirement of time. Nobody can dispute the fact that COVID-19 is the biggest tragedy humanity has ever seen,” he said. The money requirement for COVID-19 is huge so any corporate or individual will be tempted to contribute towards it, Punani noted.
COVID-19 has claimed 2,72,578 lives worldwide and infected 39,07,055 people. In India, 2,109 people have died of the deadly virus lives and 62,939 people infected.
Corporates from various sectors and individuals have made contributions to different funds established for COVID-19 relief operations. The government has also set up a public charitable trust under the name ‘PM CARES Fund’ in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.