RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal today dubbed as “baseless” the questions being raised about interests of US bankrolling the nation-wide anti-corruption agitation under his Gandhian leader Anna Hazare.
In a talk with Business Standard, the Ramon Magsaysay awardee said the NGO, Kabir, he runs along with social activist Manish Sisodia, did receive funding from the New York-based Ford Foundation, but pointed out that it had stopped about two years ago. “How can you linked that to what is being done now?” he asked, referring to allegations against the popular movement seeking early passage of a strong Lok Jan Pal Bill, including one by author Arundhati Roy.
“If Ford Foundation is bad, then ban it,” he said. It was “preposterous” to say Magsaysay awardees will further any American agenda just because the Magsaysay Foundation has US funding. “I don’t know who funds Magsaysay.”
If every beneficiary of the Ford Foundation fund was furthering a US interest, then IIM Bangalore dean Trilochan Shastri who started Association for Democratic Reforms with IIM alumni “too must be doing that”, he added, cynically.
Ford Foundation India too denied allegations that it was propping the anti-graft movement. Its representative, Steven Solnick, said the Foundation’s last instalment to Kabir was in 2010. “Our first grant to the NGO was of $1,72,000 in 2005 ; the second was in 2008 of $1,97,000,” he told Business Standard.
“Both were exclusively for work on Right to Information Act and on training people how to use it,” he said. The Foundation had agreed to give the NGO a grant this year. “But they told us that they have not been able to begin any work. Hence, the money was not given.”
Solnick said it was not correct to say that Ford Foundation was trying to influence Magsaysay awardees even indirectly. “Our grant to Magsaysay Foundation was as early as 15 years ago. It was for a specific purpose. That both Kiran Bedi (of Team Anna) and Kejriwal are awardees is a coincidence.”
He denied the notion that the Magsaysay awards, funded by the 1936-founded Ford Foundation, is like an extension of the US government. “It is as wrong to say so as to say that the Nobel prize is an extension of the explosives industry of Alfred Nobel,” he added.
The $11 -billion-dollar charity of the foundation is for separate organisations including research organisations. “That does not mean we are trying to manipulate research in India,” he noted.