NGO trust charged with misuse of fund
Author: By: Manoj Nair
NGO trust charged with misuse of funds
By: Manoj Nair
The Apne Aap Women's Collective, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working to empower sex workers in Kamathipura, is under investigation after the founder lodged a police complaint saying the trust has misappropriated funds, both foreign and domestic.
The Malabar Hill Police Station registered a first information report (FIR) yesterday against managing trustee Sudarshan Loyalka and an employee of Apne Aap.
The trust is alleged to have fraudulently used the names of influential people — like former Lok Sabha speaker Rabi Ray — to get foreign funds.
Loyalka denied the allegations to the police yesterday.
Apne Aap was set up in 1998 by Ruchira Gupta, a journalist who had made a documentary on the trafficking of women and children. "While doing research for the documentary, I befriended some women in the Kamathipura brothels. They urged me start an organisation to help them and their children improve their lives," said Gupta.
Gupta roped in well-known people like Ray, Champa Limaye, retired professor and wife of parliamentarian Madhu Limaye, Manmohan Singh, then principal state health secretary and others.
Gupta said her uncle Sudarshan Loyalka, who ran an investment firm, was given the responsibility of registering the trust.
Meanwhile, Gupta left India for assignments abroad. During visits, she hired staff for the collective that was to provide services like micro-savings, counselling, insurance and health facilities for marginalised women and their children from red-light areas.
In June 2002, during one of her visits, Gupta was shocked to discover that in the bye-laws of the trust, filed by Loyalka with the charity commissioner, her name did not figure as a trustee. Neither did the names of Ray, Limaye and others appear.
Gupta's police complaint said the new trustees included Loyalka, Loyalka's employees and his family members.
According to Gupta, Loyalka then pretended that Ray, Limaye, Singh and others were the trustees in order to get funds for the organisation.
The NGO was also registered as eligible for foreign funding. Gupta has alleged that Loyalka has withdrawn the NGO's funds, including the foreign aid, for his own use. The trust functions from premises allotted by the civic corporation in a municipal school in Khetwadi.
Loyalka denied that Gupta was kept in the dark about developments at the NGO.
"It is a small NGO and during the four years of its working, we have spent only around Rs 13 lakh, most of which was raised in India. Gupta also got foreign funding which was not passed on to Apne Aap. When I questioned her about this, she threatened to file a complaint," said Loyalka.
Police said they are still examining the NGO's accounts. Offences of misappropriation, fraud and conspiracy have been registered against Loyalka and his secretary Sophia Sawant, also one of the trustees, said K L Jadhav, senior inspector of Malabar Hill Police Station.
"We are checking the records and have questioned two trustees. There are allegations that apart from local funds, he has received $20,000 from abroad. We will question them again," Jadhav said.