Bogus NGO Dupes Kashmiri Artisans

In the security sensitive region of Jammu & Kashmir, the state would like to claim authoritative intelligence on what goes on the ground. But such is not the case, reports IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Sajad Rasool. "Sometimes they forget to watch the ground beneath their feet," he says.

In his district of Badgam, the average con man now comes in the guise of non-profit organizations. The one on which he made his video today- Zari Arts Society of J & K- had opened it's fake office in the same block right under the nose of the District Collectorate and the Police Headquarters. Lakhs of rupees belonging to some of the poorest families in the district were embezzled in their elaborate scam which preyed on the people's hopes and futures. The perpetrators have never been caught. And the victims neither saw justice nor a single rupee back.

Sajad describes the fraudulent ngo's modus operandi - Employing local agents, the ngo reached out to some of the small time artisans of the district. In return of a hefty deposit, the people were promised regular orders and trade for their handicrafts, an anganwadi for the welfare of their children, a knitting and sewing centre and also, small loans. About 20 to 25 families deposited over Rs. 20,000/- to Rs. 25,000/- each. In return the ngo gave them bogus orders for their goods and many promises and hopes. But once the money was deposited and the people visited the ngo's office, they found it shut. It was only then that they realized that they had been tricked.

"Just this past week, 5 local ngo's were found to be defrauding the people and their license was taken away by the home ministry," says Sajad. "But pretending to be non-profits seems to be the latest trend by which certain con-men are trying to defraud the people of Kashmir."

What angers Sajad is that no action has been taken by the authorities to return the money back to the people and persecute the criminals who duped the public. "The local agents were put in prison for a day or so and then they were released. A huge amount of money has been misappropriated but the police and the authorities don't seem keen to take action."

Sajad says that there are rumors of a nexus among the con-men and the officials. And considering that the state of J & K is among the most corrupt in the country, he is of the opinion that the rumor holds water.

"If it was a politician who was cheated or some one higher up, the police would have taken action or atleast released a statement," says Sajad. "But the victims are some of the poorest people in the district. The state has never cared for them. It would be too much to expect them to start caring now."

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