The Narendra Modi government's move to cancel the licences of about 9,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), receiving foreign funding, for violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) has sent shock waves among the voluntary sector.
The move assumes significance, especially in the wake of the National Democratic Alliance government’s decision to put US aid agency Ford Foundation on a watchlist, and freezing the accounts of Greenpeace.
In an order, the home ministry said notices were issued to 10,343 NGOs for not filing annual returns for financial years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12.
According to reports, the notices were served on October 16, 2014, saying that the NGOs should file their annual returns within a month specifying the amount of foreign funds received, sources of such funds, for which purpose it was received and the manner in which such foreign contribution was utilised, according to a home ministry notification.
Of the 10,343 NGOs, only 229 replied.
There was no reply from the remaining NGOs, leading to cancellation of the registration issued under FCRA to about 9,000 NGOs, the notification issued on Monday said a PTI report.
Welcoming the efforts of the ministry to streamline the voluntary sector, Harsh Jaitli, chief executive, Voluntary Action Network India, an umbrella organisation of NGOs, said many of these organisations might have become defunct and closed down and it was important to weed them out. “But in this exercise, the genuine NGOs are also being targeted. The FCRA department under the home ministry also doesn’t have exact data on the NGOs and is not working in a transparent manner. Even if an NGO might have submitted returns, the department won’t acknowledge or respond. So you are kept in the dark always. This hostile approach is bad for the society and country,” he added.
Many civil society activists expressed anger over the government’s decision to target the voluntary sector. “There is an effort to stifle dissent. This is not good for the democracy,” said an NGO activist, who didn’t want to be quoted.
On March 3, Kiren Rijiju, minister of state for home affairs, told the Lok Sabha that the government had prohibited 69 NGOs from receiving foreign funds. A total of 14 NGOs from Andhra Pradesh, eight from Tamil Nadu, five from Gujarat and four from Kerala figured in the list.
In January this year, the home ministry placed 10 foreign donor agencies under “prior permission category”, under Section 46 of the FCRA. In a letter to the Reserve Bank of India, the ministry asked banks “to ensure that any fund flows from these donor agencies (see list) to any individual/NGO/organisation, should be brought to the notice of the ministry of home affairs
so that funds are allowed to be credited to the accounts of the recipient individual/ NGOs/association only after clearance from the Foreigners’ Division, FCRA wing”. A majority of these organisations are evangelical organisations, funding NGOs mostly in south India.
During 2011-12, a total of 22,702 associations reported receipt of foreign contributions amounting to Rs 11,546.29 crore. Among the associations that reported the receipt of foreign contribution, the World Vision of India, Chennai, received the highest amount (Rs 233.38 crore), followed by the Believers Church India Pathanamthitta, Kerala (Rs 190 crore), the Rural Development Trust, Ananthapur, Andhra Pradesh (Rs 144.39 crore), the Indian Society Of Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints, Delhi (Rs 130.77 crore), and the Public Health Foundation of India, Delhi (Rs 130.31 crore).
Foreign Donor Agencies placed in Prior Permission Category
1. Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA)
2. Danish Institute of Human Rights (DIHR)
3. Catholic Organization for Relied and Development Aid (CORDAID)
4. Dan Church Aid (DCA)
5. Mercy Corps, USA
6. Inter Church Peace Council _ Pax Christi (IKV- PC) , Netherlands
7. HIVOS, Netherlands
8. ICCO Stretegische Samenwerking (ICCO), Netherlands
9. Green Peace International
10. Climate Work Foundation (CWF), US
Source: Home Ministry