M S Siddiqui
The government is pledge-bound for welfare of citizens and all its activities are meant for welfare of the common people. For doing so the government has a workforce in the administration popularly know as bureaucracy. The administration machinery has certain advantages, disadvantages and limitations. They are unable to reach the really deserving people. The commitments, vision and mission to work for others without any return is believed to be the best option to work for the common people. The legacy of welfare and development initiatives has predisposed traditional organisations to believe that disadvantaged population can be included in mainstream development by providing key inputs in areas of health, education and micro credit etc. The micro credit to the inaccessible poorest of the poor is a widely acclaimed method of banking in the recent history. The practice of giving service to others without expecting any return and helping the distressed are crucial and commitment come from voluntary and religious dimensions.
Philanthropy is not a new issue. It is rooted in custom, tradition and religion. Initially, religious laws and customs governed private charitable and philanthropic activities. Religion has traditionally been one of the principal factors that motivated individuals to undertake philanthropic work in any society. Religious endowments were thus made not only in the hope of living a good life on earth but in order to ensure a heavenly existence in the life hereafter.
People in the predominantly Muslim society of Bangladesh have long assisted the less fortunate through financial help such as zakat, sadqa and fitra. These religious contributions needed an institutional basis to charity. With the passage of time, the spirit and the practice of giving to others has not changed, but the mechanism of providing services to people without profit has undergone transformation.
History has long details how kings and zamindars established mosques, temples, schools and hospitals and donated huge amount of money towards charity in the hope of acquiring name, fame and eternal bliss. The spirit of doing for collective good also prevailed among social leaders and philanthropists, who worked together to assist people in crises like epidemics, famines, floods and cyclones. As natural calamities were a regular feature of this part of the globe, recourse to community support was an inevitable choice for the general populace.
Colonial rule in the South Asian subcontinent influenced philanthropic activities considerably. Christian missionaries engaged in philanthropic work across the region, often choosing remote and impoverished communities to establish hospitals, schools, orphanages and associations.
Therefore, what started out as purely humanitarian efforts, ultimately evolved into concrete mechanisms for providing services to the people. The societies, trusts, clubs, associations, foundations and other entities were established with the primary objective of rendering social services in an organised manner.
The sustainability of these institutions largely depends on availability of funds and the manner in which the funds are managed. These are operated within a regulatory framework regulated by the government, foreign donors, domestic donors, or generation of surplus through their activities for financial sustainability. The foreign donors are gradually shifting the responsibility of their fund from government agencies to non-government organisations (NGO) and private individuals. The advent of donor-aided NGOs is another dimension of donation for the cause of common people. NGOs have institutionalised the pattern of philanthropic activities for operation of funds available from foreign donors and other sources.
Non-profit organisations in Bangladesh are mainly formed under four acts: The Societies Registration Act (1860); The Trusts Act (1882); The Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control) Ordinance (1961) and The Companies Act (1994). There are two sets of laws in Bangladesh that pertain to non-profit organisations - one setting out the parameters of legal status and legal obligations, and the other setting out the regulatory measures under which such organisations must operate.
The activities of non-profit organisations and their funding status are regulated under the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control) Ordinance (1961); the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Ordinance 1978 (as amended in 1982); and the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Ordinance 1982. There are also legislated or regulate religious laws pertaining to the registration and activities of religious philanthropic and charitable institutions. For example, the Waqfs Ordinance (1962) was established for the registration and regulation of Muslim trusts.
There are in flow of foreign funds to many organisation including NGOs. It is not mandatory that non-profit organisations make public their activities, decisions and accounts. And unless there is a complaint or dispute or a specific legal requirement, there is no general provision for government inspection. The government may, at any time, inspect the accounts and other documents of non-profit organisations receiving foreign funds under the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Ordinance, 1978. Most non-profit organisations have their own means of regulating their affairs, the terms of which are included in their individual constitutions or articles of association. Now-a-days, the NGOs are in business namely social business and having successful ventures. The commercial activities of the NGOs and their profit are under debate. There is demand for introduction of regular tax on their social business.
Non-profit organisations are generally established on the basis of certain purposes and objectives. While some of these purposes may be quite specific in terms of meaning and application, there are others that are wider in scope. There are many types of service organisations like society, trust, waqf, non-profit company and service club like Rotary and Lions clubs etc.
A society has a separate legal identity as a body corporate with perpetual succession and operates for pecuniary gain. Pecuniary gain is making a profit with the intention of passing this profit on to some or all of the members of the society. In case of a society to be registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860, it is essential that it must be established for charitable purposes.
A foundation is a non-profit organisation which is usually created via a single primary donation from an individual or a business and whose funds and programmes are managed by its own trustees or directors. As such, rather than funding its ongoing operations through periodic donations, a private foundation generates income by investing its initial donation, often disbursing the bulk of its investment income each year to desired charitable activities.
A trust is an obligation binding a person, the trustee to deal with property in a particular way for the benefit of another person or class of persons whose interests are protected by the equitable jurisdiction of the courts. In general, a trust is a relationship in which one person holds title to property, subject to an obligation to keep or use the property for the benefit of another. The Trusts Act 1882 provides legal cover for private acts of public charity and affords creators or authors considerable flexibility in the operation of the trust. A trust may be set up for public welfare, naming several trustees who will administer the trust in conformity with the trust instrument. Some trust property, whether in cash, assets, land or buildings; and the beneficiaries must be the public at large or some section of it.
A waqf may be created for pious, religious and charitable purposes. No transfer may be made by a mutawalli of any immoveable property of a waqf by way of sale, gift, mortgage or exchange or by way of lease exceeding five years without the previous sanction of the Administrator of Waqfs. A waqf is an inalienable religious endowment in Islam, typically denoting a building or plot of land for Muslim religious or charitable purposes. It is conceptually similar to the common law trust
In Islamic terms, waqf refers to a religious endowment i.e. a voluntary and irrevocable dedication of one's wealth or a portion of it - in cash or kind such as a house or land property, and its disbursement for shariah compliant projects such as mosques or religious schools.
Waqf is a permanent donation. Once a waqf is created, it can never be donated as a gift, inherited, or sold. Disbursement of its returns is done in accordance with the endower's wishes. Charity is Islamic concept of alms-giving -Sadaqah, a voluntary act of giving alms.
In order for a voluntary social welfare agency to be established under the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control) Ordinance 1961, it must be established for the purpose of rendering social services. Social services are defined by the act to include child welfare; youth welfare; women's welfare; welfare of the physically and mentally handicapped; family planning; recreational programmes intended to keep people away from anti-social activities; social education; education aimed at developing civic responsibility; welfare and rehabilitation of released prisoners, juvenile delinquents, socially handicapped, beggars and destitutes; welfare of the aged and the infirm; training in social work; and coordination of social welfare agencies.
An association may be incorporated as a non-profit company with limited liability of the Companies Act provided it is formed to advance commerce, arts, science, religion, charity or any other useful object; it uses its income in promoting its objects; and it prohibits the payment of any dividend to its members.
The government may in issuing the license direct that the association be registered as a company with limited liability, without adding the word 'limited' to its name. The license may be granted subject to such conditions and restrictions that the government may deem fit and shall be binding on the association.
A service club or service organisation is a voluntary non-profit organisation where members meet regularly to perform charitable works either by direct hands-on efforts or by raising money for other organisations. A service club is defined first by its service mission; second its membership benefits, such as social occasions, networking, and personal growth opportunities encourage involvement.
A service organisation is not necessarily exclusive of ideological motives, although organisations with such defined motives are more likely to identify themselves through their association. Much like the historical religious organisations formed the basis for many of societal institutions, such as hospitals, service organisations perform many essential services for their community and other worthy causes.
Historically, most service clubs consist of community-based groups that share the same name, goals, membership requirements, and meeting structure. Most of these clubs started with a single club in a single city, but then replicated themselves by organising similar clubs in other communities. Many of the service club organisations have become world-wide movements. Rotary and Lions clubs are remarkable service clubs, and have obtained official recognition by the United Nations and various governments as non-government organisations.
These service clubs have remarkable contribution in certain service sectors. Rotary Club has donated about Tk 11.48 billion for immunisation programme. The programme is conducted by the government and the fund channalises through UNICEF to Bangladesh government; and Tk 63 billion throughout the world to eradicate Polio from the world. The Eye camps for free treatment are one of the landmark social work of Lions club.
These contributions of individuals from home and abroad are sources of income to many people in Bangladesh and they are having more and more influence in woman empowerment, health and education etc.
The government has no records of organisations active in Bangladesh. It is, however, gradually trying to regulate the activities through various laws and rules. There are some regulating authorities like NGO Bureau, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) etc to co-ordinate and integrate with such government programmes
The writer is a part time teacher of the Leading University, and pursuing PhD in Open University, Malaysia. He can be reached at email: firstname.lastname@example.org