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The Planning Commission has suggested that the voluntary sector be brought under the umbrella of Right to Information Act, along with developing a code of conduct to ensure greater transparency and accountability. At present, only those voluntary organizations which receive public funds come under the ambit of the RTI Act. The plan panel’s steering committee also suggested bringing voluntary organizations with a corpus beyond a stipulated amount under the purview of state Lokayuktas.
The panel also supported the move for promotion of an apex body, empowered to govern the entire voluntary sector, by laying down certain norms and standards for self-regulation which could be termed as ministry of voluntary affairs along the lines of ministry of corporate affairs. The argument for regulation of the sector stems from the fact that voluntary organizations use public funds and are exempted from tax and work in the public domain and their actions have a direct impact on people and society. The code of conduct should deal with issues of responsible governance practices, adhering to existing laws and also address issues like harassment of human rights activists, whistle blowers and those who express their dissent against the state, the committee said. It was argued that a system needed to be developed to examine the adherence to the code by voluntary organizations and a mechanism for dealing with complaints and grievances of various stakeholders could be framed within the terms of a code of conduct. Further, it could help resolve disputes and grievances amicably and quickly, the panel noted, adding that there should be performance measures that would allow for fair application of incentives and disincentives to mould behavior in alignment with the desired code of conduct.
Courtesy: Times of India
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