Udta Haryana Exclusive: State Govt Denies World Bank Funds To NGOs
Haryana Govt stopped distributing World Bank funds to NGOs working with drug users. The Quint investigates.
Udta Punjab, yes, but what about neighbouring Haryana? Sources on the ground suggest that while little is known about the Haryana drug problem, it is another Punjab in the making. While drugs in Punjab are a big election issue this time around, the Haryana government, it appears, not only refuses to acknowledge the problem, but is also closing down NGOs and centres working with injected drug users in the state.
62 treatment centres funded by the World Bank have been shut down by the Haryana government. The Quint examines why.
Udta Haryana: A Reality
Ravi (name changed) is a 17-year-old recovering drug addict from Haryana. He started taking drugs at the age of ten and has never been to school. Ravi is recovering at a private rehabilitation home in Gurgaon. In this tell-all interview to The Quint, he explains how easily drugs are available and how rampant the problem is.
The only study to document Haryana’s drug menace was a UNAIDS survey in 2008. The study found that Punjab and Haryana were both plagued with pharmaceutical drug abuse at the time. While the 2016 Punjab drug survey suggests that the state has moved to heroin consumption, there has been no study in Haryana. As a result, little is known about the Haryana drug menace.
In 2008, a UNAIDS Survey suggested that the estimated upper limit of Injected Drug Users (IDU) in Punjab was 18,148. Haryana was not far behind with 15,858 users. A majority of these drug users were between 18-30 years of age.
Haryana Govt Shuts Down World Bank Funded NGOs
1. Who runs these NGOs?
The 62 NGOs that have been shut down are run by the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO). NACO runs HIV eradication projects in collaboration with State Aids Control Societies (SACS) established across all states in India. All these NACO projects are funded by the World Bank.
2. Why has the government stopped distributing World Bank funds?
Since January 2016, 62 Target Intervention (TI) units of the Haryana Aids Control Society that have been working with IDUs and other high risk groups have been forced to shut down in the state. The government claims that it has stopped funding as these TI units are ‘not performing’. But since NACO receives funding from the World Bank and the role of the state government is only to disburse funds, what right does the Haryana government have to plug funding?
NACO runs TI units across all states in India and implementing NGO partners in Haryana are crying foul; questioning the government’s move. One of the NGO heads said:
Only our Haryana centre has been shut down, we have centres in almost all states in India. While the official letter from the Haryana government came in January 2016, the funding stopped fourteen months ago. These are peer-led programs, no money means no salaries, so people left. When the health minister of Haryana, Anil Vij ordered the audits of the TI units, many of them were already short staffed and didn’t meet the standards. But who is the state government to stop funding coming from the World Bank? They are sitting on over 13 crore rupees.
The Haryana Government Diktat
On 23 December, 2015, the Haryana Government ordered the NGOs to shut down in the light of an ‘unsatisfactory report’ that was submitted by the Haryana State AIDS Control Society. Another letter dated 6 January, 2016, ordered centres to shut down immediately as the government would not be liable for any expenditure incurred after 6 January.
The Quint tried to reach Anil Vij’s office, but got no response. The Health Secretary of the Haryana Government said:
These are orders from the health minister Anil Vij. I have no comment to make, we are just following orders.Sh PK Mahapatra, Additional Chief Secretary to Haryana Government, Health Department
NGOs Say They Haven’t Been Paid For 14 Months
NGOs claim that funding had stopped well before the Haryana health department conducted audits. An NGO head, on the condition of anonymity, said:
We got one instalment of funds in July 2015, but that is all we got for 14 months. Monitoring and evaluation teams, outreach workers and peer educators don’t get paid that much, so when salaries stopped, people left. Patients were being neglected, syringe distribution, awareness campaigns and follow up testing had already become irregular. This move by the government has taken us back ten years in terms of our drug de-addiction efforts.
NACO is not taking things lying down. They have written several letters to the Haryana State Government questioning the move but have not received a reply.
The Target Intervention programme has been a very successful and effective initiative. It is therefore felt that the termination of the services of many NGOs at one go will adversely affect the quality of implementation of the project.NACO Letter to Haryana Government, 13 January, 2016
Anil Vij Threatened NGOs With ‘Vigilance’ Vendetta
The Quint reached out to several NGO partners who have had to shut shop in Haryana. None of them wanted to come on record and take on the state government. NGO heads say that they fear a vigilance enquiry by Health Minister Vij. One of the NGO heads said:
Nobody wants to raise a voice against Vij because we have been threatened to be framed under vigilance enquiry. NACO has a clause that it gives 3 months notice to a non-performing NGO. Here the Haryana government has stopped distributing world bank funds just like that and nobody can raise a voice.
(With inputs from Prashant Chahal)
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