Mid-Day Accuses NGO Of Fraudulent Fund Raiser; Facts Read Otherwise
Starting November 27, a Mumbai-based tabloid, Mid-Day carried out a series of reports alleging that an NGO called “Make Love Not Scars” used the picture of an acid attack victim without her consent, raised funds by using her image and the money never reached the survivor.
After first claiming that they kept the money for themselves, in the second report Mid-Day claimed that their reportage helped 60% of the money to be transferred but the remaining funds went to the NGO’s pockets.
Their article started with an opinion “Thinking of donating to a crowdfunding website to help the survivor of a terrible acid attack? Beware, your money might not reach the victim.” When the money finally reached the victim, they took the credit for it.
The title of the last article is misreported as the money was transferred before the first article was published.
But what actually happened? Did “Make Love Not Scars” really misuse the photo and then think about pocketing the money?
Although in the articles written by Mid-Day, there is a lot of confusion as to why and how the NGO started the campaign. Ria Sharma, the founder of the organisation, makes it clear that Masina Hospital approached her for funds for the treatment of the victim.
“We were approached by a hospital in Mumbai to raise funds for a survivor who was a patient at their hospital. The survivor was in critical condition. We are well aware that all hospitals have to provide free of cost treatment to survivors but I know better as an activist as to when and where this should apply,” she says.
Another NGO apparently called Make Love Not Scars and said that the fundraising was supposed to be done by them and she refused because she does not believe that you can claim “dibs” on someone’s life. “I asked the NGO to raise their own funds and that together, we could truly come up with all the funds required but they refused,” she said.
They approached Ketto, a fundraising organisation, and when they raised about Rs 10.6 lakhs they shut the campaign and wanted to initiate the money transfer. “We had to wait for a few days to receive all the compliance paperwork from the hospital that was required to transfer the funds. On the November 22, we received all the details. The next day, Masina hospital received Rs 6.15 lakhs and the remainder which was raised in USD was transferred on the 24th from Ketto.” She says that due to Thanksgiving week, the rest of the money would have taken a few more days to reach the family.
“The funds had been transferred and the rest was on its way and in the meanwhile, I was approached by a journalist from Mid Day, who said he was writing a story on how we refused to allow the family to have the funds. I acted defensively as I was offended that someone would call me out simply for helping someone,” said Ria.
One article snowballed into three more. “The articles were wrong and misrepresented. They misquoted me, stated that we were holding on to the funds,” she said. She provided them with the details and told them that the funds were already transferred. Sent them screenshots and provided them with the necessary documents, yet the articles came out one after the other without any of the facts.
“The future of my survivors and organisation depend on it. They have been posting false stories, refusing to publish receipts and proofs I am providing them with,” she said. The reputation of Ria’s organisation was at stake. The organisation which caters to many acid attack victims and has funded education and treatment of many survivors.
Ria laments, “I am scared. I am not scared for myself but for the future of social work in this country.”
Mid-Day’s point of view
The Logical Indian contacted Mid Day and tried to understand why were the facts not presented correctly and the proofs she gave not acknowledged, the reply was, “You’ll find the answers to these questions in the reports, which you can find on the Mid-Day website.”