Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Editorial: Bogus NGOs' vanishing act

How could they operate at all?

ANOTHER form of organised extortion is increasingly in evidence going by two front-page stories run in a row by our newspaper in the last couple of days.

In villages of Natore and Rajshahi, gullible people were registering with so-called NGOs on payment of money as investment promising weekly dividends. For some time impressive returns were given to members winning their confidence and thereafter the NGOs suddenly disappeared from the scene. Such vanishing acts have been performed by a number of NGOs with catchy high sounding names in Rajshahi and Natore areas cheating unsuspecting rural people of Taka 260crore in total.

Deeper down, the tales are pathetic and one tends to grit one's teeth in rage when confronted with the full detail. Many sold everything they had or mortgaged their only piece of land or borrowed money from Karitas, Grameen Bank and Padakkhep and deposited it with the NGOs to make quick money. They are now left pauperised.

The sheer amount of the money looted speaks of the duration of the operation as well as the sweep of such NGO networks. How could they dare act so openly, however, resourceful their repertoire of tricks might have been, especially in these days of mobile communication. Gullibility alone couldn't have ensured the thugs good business. There must have been something else which we identified as turning of a blind eye to such NGO operations by the local administration being in cohorts with some influential people and NGO operatives.

Despite allegations being aired by union parishad leaders and media exposé from time to time, the authorities failed to take action against illegal money making projects. The upshot of all this has been commotion and protests by the incensed victims. As far as we understand, such NGOs are required to be registered with a local office under the social welfare ministry. Were they registered?

The district administration has decided to stop activities of such NGOs and is moving with concerned authorities for cancellation of their registration. So far so good, but equally important is the task of bringing the thugs to justice and arranging refund of the victims' money.

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