As many as 58 NGOs across Karnataka have not received funds from the government for more than two years.
Several non-government organizations (NGOs) in Karnataka are struggling due to lack of funds from the government under the Swadhar Greh scheme. These shelter homes, housing several rescued women and children, are at the risk of shutting down.
For the financial year 2020-21, the Narendra Modi government allocated Rs. 50 crores and later revised it to Rs. 25 crores. The estimated budget for 2020-21 is almost 50 percent less than the allocated budget two years back.
Fr Riju Jose, the founder of Pastoral Sociology Institute in Malur, said they have not received the funds for more than one year.
“The amount of fund depends on the number of beneficiaries in the NGO. We were supposed to get around Rs. 20 lakhs. We are currently borrowing money from our friends to run the home where women and children stay. We keep hoping we will get the funds soon or else several shelter homes will have to shut down,” he said.
The Pastoral Sociology Institute currently houses 37 women and 12 children at their home in Malur. The NGO barely manages to arrange for their food and stay every day.
Rajasekhara B. from Rajalakshmi Swadhara Greh, an NGO in Chitradurga said he received Rs. 5.75 lakhs in 2019. That was the last time the organization saw funds coming in. After paying a rent of Rs. 32,000 and paying for food and salaries, Rajasekhara spends over Rs.one lakh every month.
“The money comes from my own pocket. I can’t let go of the women and children staying in our shelter just because we don’t have money,” he said.
Rajasekhara said as per guidelines under the scheme, it is mandatory to have a counsellor and a doctor in-house. He has to pay their salaries himself. There have been times when he couldn’t pay the salary and several people have left in the past.
Above all, Rajasekhara faces another peculiar problem. The scheme mandates the salary for the staff should be paid through Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS).
“I need to pay around Rs. 45,000 salary every month. However, due to the lack of funds in our NGO’s bank account, I cannot transfer through RTGS. I end up paying cash. Later the officials at the Women and Child Department deny sanctioning the money because it was not done through RTGS,” he added.
Ramesh from Vidyaranya Education and Development Society said around 58 NGOs registered under the scheme across Karnataka are suffering for more than a year due to lack of funds.
“We have not received the funds for the last three years. We are burdened under loans to pay the salaries of our staff. We have taken a loan of more than Rs. 20 lakhs to keep the home running,” he said.
The Swadhar Greh scheme provides temporary shelters and serves to rehabilitate women who come from difficult situations like victims of abuse, widows, etc. The central government pays 60 percent while the state government adds 40 percent to the fund. Without funds, the NGOs need to pay from their pockets.
“We can do it for two, four or five months. How can we continue for over two years?” Ramesh added.
One of the NGO officials had recently visited New Delhi to meet the officials from the Ministry of Women and Child Development. He said the officials had promised to release the funds in a few weeks.
The Karnataka state government, however, is unsure about when the funds can be released.
“COVID-19 has affected how the department functions. Due to the pandemic, several beneficiaries living in the shelter homes have been sent back. But we are in constant touch with the centre and hope to release the fund soon,” said Geetha B. Patil, Joint Director at Department of Women and Child Development, Karnataka.
Dr. Shyamali Mukherjee, HOD, Department of Journalism at Jain College said, “For Swadhar Greh, the discrepancy lies in the fact that the funds allocated under this scheme for the financial year 2020-21 were Rs. 25 crore and as of now, they have received Rs. 16.50 crore, so where did the rest of the money go? The ministry of Women and child Development must clarify why all these rehabilitation centres are not getting the allocated funds and why the inhabitants, victims of different abuses, are pushed into this unending series of miseries. The government should push peoples’ developments, more than anything else.”