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Exclusive: Delhi government bars Bloomberg-funded charity from tobacco control work

Reuters  |  NEW DELHI 

By Aditya Kalra

NEW (Reuters) - A small Indian non-profit funded by will not be allowed to carry out tobacco-control work in New after it failed to disclose its funding, according to a city government and a memo seen by

Other foreign-funded organizations will need to seek prior approval in the future for anti-activities in the Indian capital, the also said.

The government's decision comes amid similar moves by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration, which has since 2014 tightened surveillance of foreign-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs), saying many of them work against India's national interests.

Thousands of charities' licences have been cancelled for misreporting donations in recent years. reported last year that had discreetly investigated how Bloomberg Philanthropies, founded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, funds local non-profit groups for anti-lobbying. (https://reut.rs/2RsE5RA)

In the latest case, a Bloomberg-backed NGO, (SEEDS), had approached the to collaborate on control but did not share its foreign funding details when asked, the city's told on Monday.

His decision not to allow SEEDS to carry out tobacco-control activities in the city is aimed at promoting funding transparency, Arora said, adding that he remained fully committed to tobacco control.

Arora said SEEDS had proposed advising the on tobacco-control policy matters.

The of SEEDS, Deepak Mishra, said he had not received any order from the On reviewing the note shared by Reuters, he said SEEDS was working on tobacco control with two state governments and would discuss the issues with Arora. SEEDS has yet to start its work in Delhi and Mishra declined to disclose the funding he receives from Bloomberg.

A for Bloomberg Philanthropies, Jean Weinberg, did not respond to a request for comment.

An anti-tobacco activist in India, who did not wish to be named, said the Delhi government's decision would set a worrying precedent.

"This is sending a wrong message. They are basically deterring tobacco control," the activist said.

BROADER WARNING FOR DELHI

The has stepped up scrutiny of NGOs registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in recent years. In 2015, it put the on a watch list and suspended India's FCRA license, drawing criticism from the

The FCRA licence of at least one Bloomberg-funded group - the - has not been renewed in the last two years, in part due to the home ministry's investigation into the foundation's funding activities.

A 2016 note from the home ministry, which Reuters reviewed last year, said the Bloomberg charity successfully lobbied for the introduction of bigger health warnings on cigarette packs and raised concerns that the foundation was running a campaign to "target" Indian tobacco businesses.

The health ministry, in contrast, has promoted tobacco-control, launching several campaigns to deter its use.

More than 900,000 people die each year in due to tobacco-related illnesses.

The Delhi state government's latest order on the Bloomberg-backed SEEDS, issued on Nov. 20, also included a warning for other non-profits. The note has not previously been reported.

"These days, the government of is very particular on international fundings & is investigating the actual objectives of various international funding agencies including Bloomberg," Arora wrote in his note, referring to the

All non-profits having international funding from Bloomberg or other sources are "completely prohibited to execute any activity under tobacco control" unless approved by the state government, the circular said.

Michael Bloomberg's financial data and company competes against

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by and Gareth Jones)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, December 04 2018. 14:17 IST
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