A year ago, the Indian government became compulsively vigilant on foreign funds procured by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and now, out of the 33,000 NGOs in the country, 20,000 have their licences cancelled for violation of laws.
Often seen as one of the easy refuge for radical organisations, the NGOs in the country were asked to submit a detailed breakup of the foreign funds they receive. The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, was recently taken up as a major step against terrorism by the government. The Ministry of Home Affairs recently banned Islamic evangelist Zakir Naik’s NGO from accepting remote funds and all the rest of the NGOs were under critical observation.
Cancellation of the 20,000 licenses that reportedly violates the provisions of the FCRA sparked debates on the social media as well. The Foreigners Division of the Home Ministry conveyed the result to the Minister of Home Affairs, Rajnath Singh, and later the ministry gave a detailed presentation stating that only the remaining 13,000 NGOs remain valid.
Anti-terrorism or pro-government move?
While the government backs its decision calling it the need of the hour to contain unscrupulous religious hatred in the country, some of the major NGO founders have directly opposed the decision calling it a political move. Shabnam Hashmi, the founder of Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (Anhad) remained unavailable for comments; however, reports have revealed that supporters of her NGO even in India have received notices from the government to explain their donations that were above INR 10,000. Anhad is one of the seven NGOs whose license is cancelled by the MHA after it was issued in March 2016.
Similarly, another NGO called the Navsaran Trust that stood by Dalits recently in Gujarat during the Uni incident got their license cancelled on the grounds of affecting harmony between religions, races, societies, linguistics and regional groups of diverse caste and communities. They had their license issued on August 3, 2016 and that makes the question even more rhetoric.
Contrary to what the national NGOs have faced in terms of the FCRA cancellations, US-based NGO, Compassion International received a very different treatment. Interfered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Colorado-based NGO got their funds transferred under low vigilance.
In a letter deputed to the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, six opposition leaders condemned the cancellation of licences of NGOs such as Greenpeace India which recently got a license. The signatories in the letter to the PM include Ahmed Patel (Congress), Sitaram Yechury (CPM), D Raja (CPI), Premchand Gupta (Rashtriya Janata Dal) Praful Patel, Supriya Sule (Nationalist Congress Party) and Neeraj Shekar (Samajwadi Party).
Calling the unprecedented attack on the NGOs as victimisation and an anti-democratic move to silence voices against the government, the leaders drew a contrast with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which is also an affiliated NGO and receives huge funds from abroad but remains suspiciously out of any of the FCRA violations.
Prior permission required
While the government is trying to pull the reins and regulate foreign funds, there are 300 NGOs that are currently under prior permission category but not registered under the FCRA. The FCRA licences of 16 NGOs were also renewed by the Home Ministry under the “automatic” route and all the cases were reviewed thoroughly and except in two cases. As per FCRA guidelines, if an NGO is put under prior permission category, it is barred to receive foreign funding from abroad without taking permission from the Home Ministry.