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How CSOs chipped in as local communities grappled with Covid second wave

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on July 06, 2021

About 600 CSOs used all their resources to provide succour; 50 organisations reported deaths

Even as State Governments struggled to grapple with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 second wave, a number of small and big civil society organisations (CSOs) gathered all their resources to help the people in local communities get food, healthcare and personal hygiene material.

After the second wave began to subside, the Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) conducted a nation-wide survey of about 600 CSOs, with bulk of them operating in 2-5 districts and with annual resources of under ₹1 crore to understand how they had responded to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“The NITI Aayog has asked the CSOs to spread awareness about the disease and sought their support in providing necessary relief to the affected people. Despite not having adequate resources and explicit permission to venture out, the CSOs responded to the call,” Binoy Acharya, Chairperson, Voluntary Action Network India (VANI), said.

PRIA’s report

The PRIA published a 29-page report titled ‘Civil Society Support to Covid-19 Affected Families – Outreach and Resourcing in the Second Wave’, giving an outline of CSOs’ contribution during the pandemic period and the kind of challenges that they faced in this process.

Nearly half of the CSOs surveyed hail from Tamil Nadu (90), Rajasthan (90) and Uttar Pradesh (90). The survey, which was conducted during June 1 to 12, covered the CSOs working in 26 States and four Union Territories.

About half of them have been working with the local communities for nearly two decades. This affinity helped them in understanding the requirements of the people in the communities.

Also read: KIOCL employees contribute to Karnataka’s Covid relief fund

Besides providing food and healthcare to the Covid-19 hit people in rural and urban areas, the CSOs helped them in accessing interest-free credit ahead of the kharif.

A lot had changed in the resource and operating environment in which the CSOs were operating at a time when the second wave of pandemic occurred.

About 40 per cent of the CSOs failed in mobilising additional resources. Yet, about one-fifth of them helped the communities in setting up quarantine facilities, 91 per cent of them provided personal hygiene material, while 78 per cent of the CSOs offered food.

In this process, the CSOs themselves were affected badly by the pandemic. About 200 CSOs said their staff themselves were infected with Covid-19, while 50 of them reported deaths.

“The amendments to Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act, 2020 had barred the CSOs to re-grant foreign resources to other organisations. It had a colossal effect on the small and medium-sized organisations which often accessed resources from bigger organisations who were in direct interface with the donors,” the report said.

The study felt that the NITI Aayog should have a relook at financial and legal regulatory frameworks that limit access to resources by the small and medium-sized organisations.

“The question that needs to be asked is—is it fair to ignore the constraints imposed by the public laws and policies on the CSOs and still expect them to deliver public good at the time of crises,” it said.

Published on July 06, 2021

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