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
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
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
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.
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!
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).
Out of this amount, Rs. 471 crores (about $98 million) were
for Christian organizations.
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.
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
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.
Prakash (301) 984-2127
Patil (510) 797-5601
Gokalgandhi (510) 794-5088
Gupta (612) 822-9498
5821 Mossrock Drive,
North Bethesda, MD 20852-3238, USA.
C for a complete list of the IDRF office bearers.