A Factual Response to the Hate Attack on the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF)
 © Friends of India and Authors of the Report
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A.  Founder

The IDRF was started in 1988 by Dr. Vinod Prakash, a former World Bank economist.  A Ph.D. from the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr. Prakash, in founding the IDRF at age 55, urged non-resident Indians to actively find solutions to the problems of poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, and natural disasters afflicting large sections of the Indian population.  As a social worker and a visionary, Dr. Prakash has dedicated his life to the IDRF cause.  Dr. Vinod Prakash, who grew up attending RSS shakhas, was inspired by the Sangh philosophy and so has an ideological kinship with the RSS.  He has never denied it, and in fact he has explicitly acknowledged this. 

One of the difficulties that Dr. Prakash has had to face in getting Indian-Americans to donate to social causes is that of corruption in India and the misuse of funds by charitable organizations.  While certainly not unique to India, these problems are certainly important to those who are serious not only about delivering aid to its intended recipients, but also about using it to effect sustainable advancement.  People are skeptical about those who claim to do good work in India, worrying that the money they donate may not be accounted for. Many organizations which appeal to the American public on behalf of worthwhile causes in the developing world have poor reputations because they are suspected of wasting money by acts such as supporting the luxurious lifestyles of their organizers. 

However, with the changes in society and media, and with more direct access to a variety of information about India, the Non-resident Indian (NRI) and Person of Indian Origin (PIO) has begun to take a keen interest in his/her country of origin.  So, when natural disasters strike India, or when the country faces other challenges, a spirit of activism rather than the old despair and apathy energizes the Indian-American community.  In an interview with the The Asian Age, Dr. Prakash said, “In the case of such calamities (Orissa cyclone) there is a feeling of patriotism.  The response, as far as putting together relief is concerned, is overwhelming.”  Dr. Prakash, while admitting his organization had not made many inroads into the newly-rich Indian community in the U.S., said that there were many who were wary about the still rampant corruption in India.  “There is so much corruption, (that) people don’t believe we are immune to this.  They feel the funds will be misused,” he said, adding that this was a definite stumbling block when it came to such fundraising efforts[14]. 

There is a false impression given by the authors of the Sabrang/FOIL report that the IDRF has tapped into the wealth of the new-rich Indian community to fund different programs in India.  In fact, the majority of donors to the IDRF are small donors.  This can be seen from the total amount collected and disbursed over a period of 13 years: about $10 million[15]!  The IDRF funds are a minuscule part of the total funds repatriated to India by the Indian Diaspora.  Could ten million dollars over a period of thirteen years have led to the brainwashing of Indians against minorities, and in turn to the violence between religious groups that the Sabrang/FOIL report claims it has?  Compare the amount the IDRF has disbursed over thirteen years to the funding of Christian organizations in one state in one year: Between 2001 and 2002, the total amount received by organizations under FCRA regulations in Karnataka was Rs. 534 crores (about $111 million[16]).  Out of this amount, Rs. 471 crores (about $98 million) were for Christian organizations[17].

Dr. Vinod Prakash, now 70 years old, is still fully involved in IDRF’s efforts to raise money for social and welfare work in India, and he continues to be the president of IDRF. 

B. Organization

The IDRF is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious and tax-exempt organization registered under U.S. Internal Revenue Code, Section 501(c)(3) (Tax ID  52-1555563).  The IDRF has been in operation since 1989, and is today considered to be one of the most successful of Indian-American charitable organizations not affiliated with a religious institution.  Its low to zero overhead, its all-volunteer, shoestring operation makes it the successful and trusted organization that it is.  Its fundraising in 2001 of roughly 3.8 million dollars is a small fraction of the total funds sent to India annually by the roughly two million Indians and Indian-Americans in the U.S., and since 1989 its has raised about $10 million. 

The IDRF focuses on five key areas: education, healthcare, women, children, and tribal welfare.  In addition to these development projects, the IDRF also works actively for relief and rehabilitation efforts in the event of natural calamities such as the Orissa Cyclone in 1999, the Gujarat Earthquake in 2001, and certain events threatening Indian national security such as the Kargil War.  The IDRF works with various NGOs who are actively working in the above-stated areas to fund projects to serve Indians. 

The IDRF’s utility to most Indians/Indian Americans is that it offers an alternative to the traditional religious/family channels of philanthropy, it is public, and donors can choose to contribute to humanitarian projects of their choice. 

The IDRF has been a favored means for a few thousand donors in the U.S. who wish to contribute to various development, relief, and rehabilitation efforts in India.  Since its inception over 14 years ago, the IDRF has directly benefited tens of thousands of poor disadvantaged children, women, and tribal Indians.  

C. IDRF key office bearers

IDRF National Committee

Founder, President

Dr. Vinod Prakash (301) 984-2127

Vice President(s)

Nagaraj Patil (510) 797-5601

Shyam Gokalgandhi (510) 794-5088

Mohandas Gupta (612) 822-9498

IDRF Head Quarters

IDRF, 5821 Mossrock Drive,
North Bethesda, MD 20852-3238, USA.
Ph/Fax: 301-984-2127

 See Appendix C for a complete list of the IDRF office bearers. 

[14] “Missionary deaths denied Orissa $100m aid”, Ashish Kumar Sen, The Asian Age; 5/11/1999; see - http://www.media-watch.org/articles/1199/90.html

[15] Source: IDRF's latest annual report - http://www.idrf.org/frontpage/annual_20012002.html

[16] 1 crore = 10 million. 1 US Dollar = 47.86 Indian Rupees (Exchange rate as of Friday, February 14, 2003)

[17] See chapter VII for more details.


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