Is Kulbhushan Jadhav an Indian agent?

Before going into the question raised in the title, let’s get into some details about some of the aspects of intelligence gathering employed by our external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).

The advent of technology has brought massive changes in the way spy agencies collect intelligence these days. But even the most powerful spy agencies believe that despite all the technological advancement, there is no substitute to human intelligence (HUMINT) gathering. For instance, even after employing all technical resources to track down Osama bin Laden, it was the HUMINT element that provided a key breakthrough in locating him.

All countries around the world do human intelligence gathering in other countries. Either they send their agents under diplomatic covers or cultivate assets in the target countries. Every spy agency in the world has its own modus operandi on carrying out such operations. India doesn’t have much HUMINT capabilities in the European countries or the US as it’s a costly affair to recruit assets in those countries.

But India does have intelligence gathering operations in neighboring countries and so do those countries have in India. The primary way they do this is via cultivating assets (mostly businessmen, traders, arms dealers). People do get caught while gathering information. In such cases, the target country registers their protest, may give consular access to the arrested person and eventually expel the person in question. China did send back an Indian businessman who was caught gathering information for India not so long time ago. Chinese don’t use their own agents to gather intelligence in other countries. Instead, they cultivate and use students, academic scholars, businessmen, and arms dealers.

There is also reluctance on the part of the Indian agents to directly get involved in intelligence gathering operations in other countries. The reason being the dismissal of some officers involved in such work in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for not being able to give proper accounts of funds spent.

India-Pakistan spy games:

But the equation between India and Pakistan when it comes to such a situation is completely different. If such an opportunity arises where an Indian agent is arrested in their country, Pakistan would make every effort to milk the situation and create an international hue and cry to bolster their claim of Indian involvement in spreading violence in their country. And that is what it is doing in the case of Kulbushan Jadhav. The news of his capture and release of his video during the visit of their JIT team to Pathankot and Iranian President’s visit to Pakistan points to that. There are other domestic political/security angles too with the timing of the release of the information regarding this case.

Also, there are multiple versions related to Jadhav’s arrest. He was either captured in Chaman area (Pakistan-Afghanistan border) or Saravan area (Pakistan-Iran border). It is also not clear as to when he was picked up or who was responsible for his capture.

An interesting news report in the Mumbai Mirror has revealed that Jadhav’s “phone was under surveillance by the Pakistani agencies and they found something amiss about his conversations”.

“Jadhav’s habit of speaking to his family in Marathi and with extreme familiarity and comfort level in the language betrayed his cover his passport identifies him as Husain Mubarak Patel; but his mannerisms were nothing like that of a Muslim Patel,” the news report states.

We will never know the intricate details of why Jadhav was in that area or what was he doing there, under what circumstances was he arrested, who got hold of him first and so on. The Indian government will never acknowledge that he was working for the country. Once the agent is outed, he is disowned and all links to him cut off. That’s how intelligence works.

Road ahead for India:

It is an internationally established fact that Pakistan’s security establishment nurtures, supports and deploy various facets of its terrorism infrastructure against India and Afghanistan. Clearly, brandishing more than two decades of evidence of Pakistan’s state policy on terror in various international forums has had little impact on Pakistan for three reasons.

  • The United States of America turns a blind eye to Pakistan’s state policy of supporting terrorism for a variety of geo-strategic self-interests.
  • China continues to take advantage of India’s insecurity in calling out “Pakistan’s nuclear bluff.” The Indian security establishment must deal with Pakistan’s deployment of terrorism firmly without bringing the terrorist country’s nuclear-armed status into the decision-making calculus.
  • Saudi Arabia’s funding for Pakistan-backed terror groups enables the Islamist terrorism to flourish. It is important for Indian policy makers to understand that terrorism and its related infrastructure is the biggest contributor to Pakistan’s GDP and, therefore, vital for the survival of its conflict economy. Take away the industry of terrorism from Pakistan, the country will collapse like nine-pins.

Therefore, it is time Indian decision makers took a clear, consistent and firm decision to call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff and go on the offensive. In fact, this is what most Pakistanis secretly desire — the collapse of the terrorist country of Pakistan. Given the nature of multi-pronged security threat India faces along its Western borders, it is important for India to embed eyes and ears on the ground. Why should India be apologetic about the threat India faces from Islamic State aligned terrorist groups arrayed along its Western borders?

In fact, India’s security establishment should redouble its efforts to recruit hundreds and thousands of local Pakistanis to create a robust network of ground intelligence rapporteurs. It is in India’s interest to deepen democracy in Pakistan by neutralizing the terrorist infrastructure of Pakistan’s security establishment. Without this infrastructure the Pakistani Army and its terrorist organization, Inter-Services Intelligence, won’t survive for even 24 hours.

In Defence of ‘Sting Operations’: Battling Cancer of Corruption


A hidden camera, when used in public interest, exposes a truth that’s openly known but difficult to prove. In leaky democracies when confronting those in power with the truth is risky, the hidden camera is a powerful instrument to validate intuitive truths about corruption that citizens accept as a matter of course.

Some of our politicians are unethical in their willingness to accept cash and gifts. A hidden camera, when used for the purpose for exposing the machinery of corruption, is the only way a citizen can ring the alarm bells.

So let’s stop pretending that ‘sting’ operations are morally indefensible when it is carried out in public interest.

In Narada News Sting, Message More Important Than Messenger

The sting carried out by Mathew Samuel’s outfit, Narada News, has exposed an essential truth – corruption is the biggest threat to India’s economic security and sovereignty. In 2001, he had planned Indian media’s first sting, ‘Operation Westend’, which dramatically exposed that corruption and kickbacks do exist in defence deals.

Several allegations have been raised about the integrity of Mathew Samuel and his outfit Narada News. There is talk about vested interests in Dubai allegedly funding this outfit. Let’s for a moment assume that Mathew Samuel may be fronting vested interests aiming at political subversion in India. What if such allegations are true? Does that mean there’s no corruption in India or that some of our politicians aren’t corrupt.

Finally, the tapes showing TMC politicians taking money is not about Mathew Samuel’s integrity. It is quite possible that Samuel, as some allege, might have questionable integrity. But the point really is about TMC politicians on tape gladly accepting money.

One of the most iconic rock bands, Bad Company, got it right when they sang: “Oh, there’s no smoke without a fire, and there’s no heat without a flame.”

External vested interests playing subversion games with some Indian politicians is not the issue. The issue really is about the propensity of some Indian politicians to sell their soul. The corruption standards they set is followed by the bureaucracies they run. Their corruption is the biggest threat to India’s national security because they undermine us – the citizens of India.

Exposing the Truth We Know

The Gandhi family will never be able to erase the stain of corruption of the ‘Bofors Deal’, just as the BJP-led government of 2001 will never be able to escape the embarrassment of targeting Tehelka for exposing how easily the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Defence could be subverted with cash offerings. Long before the sting operation visually exposing the sordid reality of corruption in defence deals, Chitra Subramanium’s iconic reportage for The Hindu had firmly exposed corruption in the ‘Bofors Deal’.

So how are sting operations different from traditional investigative reporting?

Sting operations assume criminality if they are used as a deliberate tool to invade a person’s privacy, or to blackmail an individual or institution.

But sting operations are valid when it is used to expose the greedy hands of some of our politicians when they reach out willingly to grab cash to dole out favours. It is of no consequence whether favours were actually done or not because the idea is not to prove that fact.

The idea is to prove the fact that such behaviour exists – that politicians are willing to sacrifice their integrity for money and the extent of their willingness to dish out favours is directly proportional to the money offered.

Hidden Camera Ensures Safety

Since the Right to Information (RTI) Act was enacted in 2005, at least 45 right-to-information users and activists have been killed and over 250 assaulted, harassed, or threatened, according to local groups. Police often fail to investigate the attacks, under pressure from politicians and contractors with vested interest in keeping the information from becoming public. – Statement by Human Rights Watch, September 2015

In India, exposing corrupt politicians and officials often ends in death. We don’t need a hidden camera to prove that. We need the hidden camera to ensure that we keep this in the spotlight of our public discourse.

It isn’t surprising that the Delhi Chief Minister suggested that the city’s denizens use their phones to transform themselves into corruption watchdogs. He encouraged them to record instances of corruption and share the audio/video recordings with his government for action. The fact that thousands of citizens could potentially transform themselves as digital warriors against corruption forced the corrupt bureaucracy to fall in line.

So let’s stop pretending that stings which expose corruption or even the willingness of a politician to be corrupted as ‘entrapment’.

(VK Shashikumar is an investigative journalist and led CNN-IBN’s Special Investigation Team from 2005 to 2009. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

(Note: The article was first published on The Quint on March 18, 2016. It is reproduced here with the permission of the author)

Know the anti-nationals


When the incident of anti-India sloganeering in JNU assaulted Indian hearts, this author on the following day was in various television studios debating the incident with the principal villains. The next two days, entire India watched the brazen contempt for the sensibilities and symbols of Indian nationhood displayed by these characters, which included Kanhaiya Kumar and Omar.

The video clips were screened repeatedly in presence of these characters and their comments were elicited. Not one of them during that period said that the videos were doctored. Instead they tried to justify all the anti-India slogans based on specious intellectual arguments. It may be mentioned that the same intellectualism has not been displayed by them in completing their course in the time-frame as stipulated for any decent student with less than average mental faculties.

Ironically, this entire accumulated filth of JNU was being exposed at a time when an Indian soldier who had been buried under an avalanche for six days in Siachen was rescued and was battling with death in the Army hospital in Delhi.

All the so-called JNU leaders harped on nationalism being an outdated concept and maintained that the law on sedition is colonial and therefore undesirable. Not one of these leaders disassociated or apologized for the anti-India slogans. Not one of them disowned the video recordings. Each one of them aggressively argued that it was a matter of ‘freedom of speech’, which is guaranteed by the Constitution.

They invoked Baba Sahib Ambedkar in this regard. Even as they flaunted their ultra-leftist and jihadi ideology, they forgot or their teachers or political masters never told them what Ambedkar had to say about the Indian Communists and the Constitution. Dr. Ambedkar had said:

“The Communist Party want a Constitution based upon the principle of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. They condemn the Constitution because it is based upon parliamentary democracy. The Socialists want two things. The first thing they want is that if they come in power, the Constitution must give them the freedom to nationalize or socialize all private property without payment of compensation. The second thing that the Socialists want is that the Fundamental Rights mentioned in the Constitution must be absolute and without any limitations so that if their Party fails to come into power, they would have the unfettered freedom not merely to criticize, but also to overthrow the State.”

Only when the Indian State swung into action in JNU, the narrative began to change. A prominent journalist hounded from the top position of a media house and now a refugee in another channel went to JNU and plotted the future script to subvert public perception. Lawyers thriving on Maoist extortion money camped in the campus to find out ways to wriggle out of the legal tangle. It is then that the entire episode of ‘doctored video’ began to be aired. The journalist has been visiting JNU regularly since then at unearthly hours. It may be reminded that as far as this pseudo-intellectual segment of the JNU is concerned; the drug induced intellectual life manifest at these hours. These are drugs pressed in by Pakistan into some of the Indian campuses.

Another journalist painstakingly tried to give a scientific twist to the doctored video theory without the benefit of juxtaposition with the ‘original’, because there was no such ‘original’. This journalist needs to explain whether the Jadavpur University video in resonance to the JNU affair was also doctored?

Then there were teachers from the JNU who tried to give an intellectual twist to the whole anti-national discourse. They spoke about the prevailing liberalism in other countries like USA, UK and other Western countries. When reminded that France has declared emergency just after one attack and the Indian who wrote ‘I will kill George Bush’ on the internet still languishes in prison or a rally in favour of Osama bin Laden was a certain passport to US prison; these shameless purveyors of anti-national ideology had no answer.

Among the apologists for the JNU anti-nationals were also some journalists and some public figures, whose parents had the interiority complex of buying education in Oxford and Cambridge. These fellows ranted about the great ‘freedom of speech’ and spirit of public debate in the universities of UK.

These apologists for anti-India slogans, half-educated in US and UK must understand the respective geostrategic location and geopolitical environment of these two countries. The USA has a very benign geopolitical environment with Canada in the North, Mexico in the South, Atlantic in the East and Pacific in the West. Similarly, UK being an Island nation lives in splendid geopolitical isolation as far as threat perception from neighbours is concerned. Therefore, both US and UK, which do not have the challenge of nation-building, can afford to have universities and educational institutions that can propagate various ideologies in pursuance of their global agenda. So, UK can afford to host the Headquarters of all the sinister organizations of the world like the Kashmiri separatists, the LTTE, the Khalistanis etc.

India, on the other hand, has one of the most hostile neighbourhood in the world. It nearly shares 3440 km boundary with China, which is communist and is reckoned as the second most powerful country after US. It also shares nearly 3310 km boundary with Pakistan – a country known as the epicenter of global jihad and terrorism. It also shares 1643 km borders with Myanmar, and large chunks of this border have been impacted by insurgency and instability. The 4096 km Indian boundary with Bangladesh is buffeted by inexorable demographic assault, and fundamentalist Islamic forces. As long as the British ruled India the external environment was relatively benign. There was no Pakistan and Bangladesh, there was the buffer state of Tibet between India and China, and China had not been taken over by the Communists. Nevertheless, some Indians from the privileged class went to the British Universities and learnt their lessons in Communism and concept of Pakistan before Independence. Sadly, these anti-nationals and their children continue to destroy India by the means of same ideologies.

What India recently witnessed in JNU and Jadavpur University is the confluence of Pakistan sponsored jihadi agenda and China sponsored Communist/Maoists agenda along with the anti-India elements in the Northeast. Sample the anti-national slogans made in JNU and Jadavpur University, and the reader will reach this ineluctable conclusion.

The modern jihad was reinvented to kill the Soviet ideology, i.e. Communism in Afghanistan. But it is here in JNU that the Communists have entered into an intellectual partnership with Jihadis.

The JNU has been serving as the nerve center for meeting of anti-India forces being sponsored from Pakistan in the West, China in the East and Northeast, and then giving them the impetus into the nooks and corners of the country. This author has met several JNU graduates working in remote areas for propagation of Maoist ideology in the disguise of NGOs ostensibly engaged in issues concerning health and education. Binayak Sen is one of them. His arrest in 2007 had created an unprecedented upheaval in the anti-national segment whose ripples could be felt in the highest corridors of power. India did not witness such breast-beating even during the arrest of Mrs Indira Gandhi in 1977. Clearly Binayak Sen was an essential part of the entire ultra-leftist anti-national machinery, enjoying the patronage of the then National Advisory Council. He, a medical graduate, too had honed his anti-national skills at the JNU.

Way back in 1996, a JNU professor had written to the authorities about the campus being used to harbor anti-nationals and conceal weapons by the ultra-leftists. The problem therefore has been festering, something well known and understood which has found reflection in more than one film. The backers of this anti-national agenda however were so sophisticated that they could befool most Indians by their duplicity couched in suavity and English language.

This class always advocates healthy debates because that is what suits them, as they have captured most of the media, think-tanks and intellectual platforms. They practiced their art of anti-nationalism with such finesse that even when they were caught with the pants down in ‘Radia tapes’ or in fabricating ‘coup stories’ or ‘Hindu Terror’, their moment of ignominy did not last beyond few months. This class has however ensured that those voices who speak for the security and unity of India are vilified because they do not have the same levels of duplicitous reach within and outside the country.

Within that veneer of liberalism of these anti-nationals, there resides a vicious and criminal intent, ideology and mindset. The manipulations of this class comprising intellectuals, journalists, so-called students, academicians have ensured that one-third of the country is under Maoist terror, and India never gets a respite from proxy war from Pakistan and China. Their design is to kill India socially, economically and eventually physically. Kanahiya when released on bail after damning strictures from the judiciary was given the treatment of an Olympics gold medalist. He was emboldened to sermon on many issues including armed forces through which he tried to drive a wedge between officers and men. This was in the wake of martyrdom of two young officers in Kashmir Valley. Amongst those whose lives these officers saved was the son of militant leader Syed Salahuddin, whose enjoys support of leftists in JNU.

The benefactors in the media and the academia cheered not realizing that about 60 percent officers in the Armed Forces are sons of jawans and JCOs. It did not occur to the anti-nationals that the 76 CRPF personnel killed in Dantewada by the Maoists, which was celebrated by Kanhaiya’s comrades, were also sons of ‘farmers’ whose cause they claim to espouse. No television channel then blanked out its screen in protest.

How diabolical that at one hand you celebrate killing of security personnel and on the other hand you accuse the state for a death wherein suicide note states that it is for personal reasons.

These anti-nationals have so far dominated the discourse, because most Indians who love their mothers and motherland never felt the need for debates and discussions on issues of nationalism, which in absence of subversion by JNU or Western Universities or Pakistan and China – remains intrinsic to their character.

The anti-nationals are now behaving as if their tails are on fire. Their zombie like conduct in the media and in public space is because their nerve center of anti-India agenda has been hit. As a desperate resort, they have created a student spearhead, who with all his intellectualism enjoys the hospitality of JNU and the State for a period in which at least three of his poor Indian brethren would have benefited and graduated.

To begin with these anti-nationals harped on ‘freedom of speech’ in the JNU affair. Then they moved to the next level, i.e. what is the proof? Consequently, they embarked on ‘doctored video’ theme. Then they said who will decide, who is anti-national and national? They insisted that it is for the judiciary to decide. When the judiciary made a scathing observation about the anti-national character of the entire episode, they began to question the judiciary through the overground Maoist lawyers, whose identities are well known.

The time has come to show the mirror of these anti-national and criminal elements to the Indian people.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

Kanhaiya Kumar and Azadi


How long can one remain a “student”? How good is an institution if a student cannot pass out of it? And who is qualified to lecture on life or the country?

I was curious to know about the student Kanhaiya Kumar. It seems, according to his Wikipedia page, he finished school in 2002 which should make him atleast 31 years old today. The page mentions that thereafter “he moved to Patna and joined College of Commerce” without mentioning the year of joining or completion. I came across an article in The Telegraph (February 19, 2016) which mentioned that he was an undergraduate student at the college between 2003-2007. I will ignore the gap of one year between finishing school and commencing the undergraduate course and also its completion taking a year longer but his Wikipedia Page says “he moved to Delhi and joined JNU” without mentioning the year he so did but mentions “he became President in 2015”.

It has been nine years since he finished graduation (which was after a break of a year and took a year longer than usual) and he is nowhere near completing his PhD. It was in the eight year of his undertaking the PhD course – three years more than the maximum it should take to complete the PhD –  that he became the President of the Student Union perhaps because he found studying pointless by then. The PhD itself, incidentally, is not Centre for Political Studies (which deals with subjects of multiculturalism, federalism and social justice) but “African Studies”! The JNU site of Centre for African Studies says that it provides funding support to faculty for field visits to Africa and supports academic activities like research seminars, and publications. It is not known whether Kanhaiya ever visited Africa or he organised any seminars on African studies but the Delhi High Court Order releasing him on interim bail records that he resented cancellation of a program ‘Against the judicial killing of Afzal Guru & Maqbool Bhatt’ the permission for which was applied by Umar Khalid on the proforma (believe it or not) for ‘Poetry Reading – The Country Without A Post Office’.

In his speech on release Kanhaiya is reported to have said, “Let me just say it is not easy to get admission in JNU neither it is easy to silence those in JNU.” What he omitted to mention was the fact those admitted do not find it easy to leave the institute much like Kanhaiya who stays there in his ninth year, remaining a student in his thirty first year trying to complete a course with which he has shown no affinity (despite the “difficulty” in getting admission) even four years beyond the maximum time taken to complete it.

Bravado in a place of comfort (he chooses not to leave JNU) without proven accomplishment in the discipline undertaken (he has proven incapacity in African Studies) and an abject failure to make an honest living (not every Indian enjoys the luxury of an indefinite education and most need to settle soon into a livelihood to sustain themselves) shows only an empty pursuit of ambition and a selfish misuse of position making not only a mockery of education but entailing in addition the lampooning of livelihood something which will not behove any responsible individual.

Kanhaiya is least competent to lecture anyone on life or country. It is not the best way to live life if one inexplicably remains a “student” till 31. And such a person definitely does not live like an ordinary honest Indian  (education for whom is an opportunity which is respected) whose cause he claims to espouse. It is easy to advocate action. It is deliberation that is difficult. Before lecturing us did he deliberate on his condition – a thirty one year old student! And while mentioning the targeting of JNU did he wonder why so prestigious a university could not make him complete his course in time?

And then ofcourse the stirring love for country. Azadi “within” the country is battle cry. Who but Kanhaiya will know about it. It is the freedom to remain a student for ever, the freedom never to leave the University, the freedom not to complete courses but spend time making speeches, the freedom never to work, the freedom to merely speak, the freedom to be a demagogue or a soap-box orator, the freedom to rouse emotions and stir hysteria and the freedom to denounce punishments lawfully administered as “judicial killings” under the guise of “poetry reading”, the freedom to replace Kanhaiyaism for all other isms!

Kanhaiya is definitely not the role model for the bearer of national standards and in fact epitomises the very wrongs in the system which are stymieing it.

(Aman Lekhi is a senior advocate and practices in the Supreme Court of India. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

Will 21st century usher in the end of ‘politicised’ and ‘ideological’ NGOs in India?


India’s politicized NGO sector is seeking intervention of Western democracies, international NGOs (INGOs) and international media to frame the accountability crises they are caught in as the “shrinking of democratic space.” Ironically, NGOs in other democracies are griping about their existential crises as well. Deborah Doane, former Director of the World Development Movement (now known as Global Justice Now), recently wrote a candid piece in the The Guardian. According to her, the very legitimacy of INGOs in the humanitarian, human rights, and development and environment sectors “is in question from all sides: governments, southern partners, donors, and even their own staff.”

She reveals that there are indeed grey areas on funds received and spent. “There is no backing away from the view that the sector needs, at the very least, a tune-up, if not a wholesale revolution to enable it to face modern times.” She goes on to ask a fundamental question that every NGO worth its salt across the world is asking: “Because in addition to the critiques, the sector is facing a rapidly changing, complex, and increasingly demanding environment, with new conflicts and climate change and colossal political, technological, and demographic transformation. The world bears little resemblance to what it did in the sector’s heyday of the 80s and 90s. Seven of the largest development organisations in the UK (Oxfam, Christian Aid, Action Aid, Cafod, World Vision, Tearfund, and Save the Children) now have a combined income of more than £1bn, but is their influence and impact commensurate?”

In India, however, the spectre of a multiplicity of voices demanding accountability from NGOs for evidence of their social impact, use of Indian and foreign donor money, foreign government grants and searching questions on whether they are cat’s paws in the hands of the foreign policy agendas of Western governments, has boxed Indian NGOs into a corner.

With their backs against the wall Indian NGOs are fighting back, compelled by their ideological opposition to the current ruling party. Besides, the activism-centric organizational structures of these NGOs prioritize confrontation with the government over engagement.

This architecture of confrontation is friendly when the political party or coalition of parties in power is ideologically aligned. For example, it was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s United Progressive Alliance government which initiated the crackdown on NGOs protesting against the nuclear power plant at Kudankulam. There were civil society protests, but no outrage over the “shrinking of public space.”

An overwhelming period of Indian Republic’s 67 years of experiment with and experience of constitutional democracy kept the relationship between NGOs and the government in a comforting space with the occasional period of turbulence. The elephant in the room that the NGOs and Congress party-led or Congress-influenced coalition governments put in place was their broadly left of centre ideological unity.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tough, disruptive and questioning stance has shattered this cosy partnership and let out the elephant in the room. This outing of a well-kept public secret is certainly discomfiting, if not paralyzing. That’s why some Indian NGOs and Indian subsidiaries of INGOs see the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government as the “enemy.” Congress, Left and Caste-based, non-Hindu religion based and ethnicity-based political parties and groups are “friends”; BJP and its allies are “enemies”. In the context of this simple and straightforward binary framework, it is not surprising why the highly politicized leadership of these NGOs do not find any logic in engaging with a democratically elected government.

Simply put, Indian NGOs (home-grown as well as subsidiaries of INGOs) consider themselves as influential political players and political allies in the left of centre ideological space.

While NGO elites in India are feeling adrift, powerless and low-on-confidence because of the loss of their influential position vis-à-vis the government, Social Entrepreneurs (SocEnters) and their Social Enterprises (SocEnts) are eclipsing Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with robust profit-neutral business models.

The large-scale changemaking impact of SocEnts is visible on the ground. Social innovators from diverse backgrounds have joined mainstream efforts to eliminate poverty in all its forms and manifestations. By doing so SocEnters are moving rapidly to contribute towards national and international efforts towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals in the next 15 years.

The SocEnt model with its clean compliance to highest regulatory standards, ability to raise money within their home countries by interacting with and involving citizens, willingness to work collaboratively with the government and private sector on core changemaking issues in a team of teams manner, engaging decision-makers through ideological-neutral political advocacy designed to jointly arrive at creating common grounds for purposeful and meaningful action has emerged as a far superior model than the traditional 20th Century activism-based NGO model.

The combustion of technology with social innovation has enhanced a citizen’s ability to self-represent. The Citizen does not need a NGO to represent her cause anymore. Similarly, The Citizen does not need media which merely bridges the information gap between her and an event. The bottom-line is that the sell-by date of NGOs structured as independent organizations representing the voice of the marginalized, unheard and voiceless is over.

It is, of course, a no-brainer that NGOs have thrived in democracies because they simply cannot survive in dictatorships, theocratic States or any other non-democratic regime. NGOs were designed as legitimate institutions, like the media, which make the scaffolding encasing democratic societies. In the 20th Century these organizations were considered an essential part of the institutional framework, part of democracy’s scaffolding, which would channelize the voice of the voiceless, the poor, indigent and marginalized. Therefore, NGOs were focussed on mobilizing people they represented. Soon NGOs started building constituencies of people they represented. Their business model was built on ‘Activism’ and ‘Agitation’.

Funding for causes is directed towards building strategic campaigns to pump up individual activism, which in turn leads to mobilization of citizens towards particular causes the NGOs are championing. But over time, especially now, causes have not only become political and NGOs deeply politicized, but it is also evidently clear that the NGOs do not have solutions to offer. NGOs do not have exit plans from causes they advocate. This ensures that they develop vested interests in simply perpetuating the situation that allows them to stay in business-as-usual mode.

Therefore, NGOs rely on confrontational strategies to stay relevant in public discourses. Since they are self-righteous they are reluctant to admit that they are ideological and have vested political ambitions to be seen as “influencers”, instead of taking on the role of solution finders. It is at this troubling interface of social problem and social impact where SocEnters have jumped in with their changemaking skills.

SocEnters understand that our societies have entered into a new age of persuasion. Building on the experience garnered by the NGO sector, SocEnts have junked the confrontational approach of NGOs by viewing their constituents as “aspirational citizens” instead of the condescending NGO lens of viewing people they serve as “beneficiaries”.

But SocEnters build their organizations as collaborative enterprises. They invest energy and resources in building partnerships with governments, private sector, community organizations and citizens to jointly find solutions to social problems in an array of sectors such as poverty-alleviation, health, education, water, sanitation, food, housing and environment. They are designing models which allow large numbers of people to escape poverty through entrepreneurship.

Their organizational structures are equally varied; some are registered as trust or charities and others as for profit private limited companies or ‘Section 8’ companies.

The social capital of NGOs is declining faster than their funds because they aren’t able to move beyond campaigning and advocacy to come up with winning sustainable solutions to the entrenched social problems. In the next five years the activism-based NGO model will collapse because of “everyone a changemaker” citizen-led campaigning models, which brings communities together. Communities no longer need NGOs to bind them together!

If NGOs fail to restructure and reorient their business models to align with SocEnt models, they will hasten their demise.

SocEnters insist that their ethical entrepreneurial business models put morals-before-markets. Their profit-neutral social impact enterprises are bringing transformative framework change wherever they are in operation. Given that social innovation is rapidly and surely putting NGOs out of business, shouldn’t the elite celebrity NGO leaders in India think innovatively about “beyond charity” operative models? NGOs in Western countries are certainly reassessing their role and relevance.

Similarly, will the NGO leadership in India rethink their purpose, role and funding? Will they display the sagacity to get out of their trenches, cease the ideological and political warfare against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and instead engage with his government on substantive issues of change? It is unlikely that there is any imagination or thought leadership to revitalize and restructure the NGO sector in India. It is most likely that technology for change will continue to empower citizens as changemakers, erasing the need for NGOs to act as outsourced intermediaries channelizing the “voices” of citizens on the marginalia of society. The end is near for most NGOs. On their ruins a new, agile, innovative, impactful, collaborative and accountable social enterprise sector will take shape.

(Shashikumar Velath is an investigative journalist and led CNN-IBN’s Special Investigation Team from 2005 to 2009. He is currently a Leadership Group Member in Ashoka – Innovators for the Public. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)