Calcutta, Nov. 24: Alarmed at the growing popularity of NGOs across Bengal’s villages and their perceived potential to influence political thinking, the CPM leadership has directed party members to “keep a watch” on them through “self-reliant” groups.
The decision, sources said, is aimed at countering the “recalcitrant” NGOs ahead of next year’s panchayat elections.
Most of the NGOs operate in health and education, the two sectors to which the CPM has given top priority since the New Left government came to power.
Already, 50,000 voluntary groups, comprising nearly eight lakh people, are engaged in “social work” in rural Bengal and most of them enjoy patronage from the NGOs. “We should not ignore these huge number of people working under various NGOs because we know nothing about their political identities,” said a senior CPM leader on condition of anonymity. “We want to take stock of the situation and will work hard to counter the NGOs if some of them are found working against the interests of the Left Front,” he added.
Some of the NGOs are now engaged in micro-finance and facilitating loans for the villagers. “They can allure rural people by offering easy money through soft loans. We have to keep a watch on such groups so that they can’t rope in the villagers and embroil them in illegal transactions,” the leader warned.
In a recent circular, the state CPM instructed its cadre to create the self-reliant groups comprising “party members and like-minded people”.
Besides, the government has decided to form a coordination committee of the NGOs and bring them under a federation.
Power minister Mrinal Banerjee flagged off a camp yesterday in which 50 NGOs working on science and technology, environment and non-conventional energy sources were trained by experts. “We shall organise such camps in the district and block levels to build their capacity to handle large projects,” an official said. Apart from technical support, the government will teach them how to prepare project reports and maintain books of account.