Hassled with corruption, social activist decides against registering NGO

Sachin Asha Subhash is the founder of Samajbandh, an organisation that aims at providing women in rural areas with free sanitary napkins made from recycled old clothes.

Credit : Indie Journal

Earlier this week, a young social worker from Maharashtra’s Raigad decided to not register his non-governmental organisation (NGO) after the bureaucratic system kept hassling with him corrupt practices. Sachin Asha Subhash is the founder of Samajbandh, an organisation that aims at providing women in rural areas with free sanitary napkins made from recycled old clothes. He had decided to register his non-profit organisation with the office of charity commissioner in Pune, in late October last year. However, the process that usually takes any time between three days to two weeks as per the Office of Commissionser of Charity's website, ended up being strained for more than three months.

“After giving it a lot of thought, my wife, Sharvari and I had decided to register our NGO. At the moment, we raise barely Rs 10,000 to 15,000 per month, solely through donations and by working as guest lecturers in colleges. In the future, we plan to manufacture menstrual cups on a large scale at cheaper rates so that women in rural areas too can use them. Menstrual cups are revolutionary after all and can change their lives. We will need more money for this, and registering our NGO would have helped us earn more legitimate donations,” says Sachin.

After Sachin’s friend assured him of how simple the process of registering one’s own NGO was, both Sachin and Sharvari prepared an elaborate file of 70 pages for the application. “We went with the file to the clerk, who I will refrain from naming, on October 26th, 2020. Since I was travelling from Raigad to Pune, I requested the clerk that it wasn't possible to come down repeatedly, and instead, they should just tell me what other documents are needed,” Sachin said. The file was later reviewed and submitted on October 29th after the clerk stated that all the documents were clear.

Post this visit, Sachin had to visit the office several times, every time being asked to come up with a new document. Once, he was asked to produce a residential proof, despite one being already submitted with the application. On a different occasion, he was asked to produce a ‘no objection certificate’ (NOC), even when Sachin had submitted a signed affidavit with the original application. “I repeatedly told the clerk that the rules clearly state an affidavit can be used as a NOC. But he wouldn’t listen. This harassment continued for several weeks. They kept asking me for documents that were already submitted, or kept coming up with a different problem each time that shouldn’t even exist in the first place,” he added.

At this point, Sachin decided to seek help from his friend who was well acquainted with the assistant commissioner of charity in Pune. When Sachin met the official, the clerks who kept delaying the approval of Sachin’s application said that there was no problem and that the file would go through. But when they would leave the office, the clerk would tell Sachin that there’s something wrong with his application file, hence he would have to visit the office again after a few days with a proper application.

“We visited him in the last week of January, and the clerk asked us to come back on February 4th. When I asked him why, he wouldn’t tell me. It was really frustrating as he didn’t give a valid reason for not doing anything until February first week. Later, he subtly asked us for a bribe if we wanted our application to be approved faster. I firmly rejected the offer and told him we would rather follow the official process no matter what,” Sachin told Indie Journal.

On February 4th too, there was no proper resolution on the application. Having had enough of the corrupt bureaucratic system, Sachin decided to withdraw his application and not register his NGO anymore. Moreover, the office also returned Sachin his application file when he asked for it, especially when the commissioner office of charity is not allowed to return any files irrespective of the file being rejected or accepted. “If anyone filed an RTI asking about my NGO’s registration application, which is 157/2020, the office won’t be able to respond as they don’t even have the file. This just shows how apathetic they are towards honest NGOs who want to register using legitimate official processes. It is very unfortunate,” Sachin expressed.

Speaking about his decision to not register Samajbandh as an NGO, Sachin says, “I don’t want this organisation to be associated with any illegal activity which will malign our image in the future. For now, we want to work as a team, and we will find other ways of generating donations. But I will never become a victim of this corrupt system which approves Nana Patekar’s Naam Foundation within half an hour, but refuses to do so for my NGO even after three months.” Sachin has also not decided to report the incident to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) as that would demand more of his time instead of the organisation’s work, and nor would it guarantee justice to him or his organisation.