India is considering tighter enforcement of existing regulations on foreign funded NGOs and maybe a new law. Uganda passed such a law on 30th March. Israel is among the other countries considering similar moves. Here is a recent update on the Indian situation…
By Yatish Yadav Published: 25th May 2014 06:00 AM Last Updated: 25th May 2014 08:29 AM
NEW DELHI: The good times may be over for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in ‘mysterious’ sectors like participatory democracy, advocacy, action research, innovative communication, inclusiveness etc.
Sources said Foreigners Division under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), is tightening the noose around such NGOs and a wide ranging reform is on the top of its agenda.
“Activities of NGOs organising workshops on the regulatory frameworks, developing communication strategies, people participations, policy analysis etc are being screened. These activities remain in the domain of speculation unlike welfare work visible on the ground,” sources said, adding that some NGOs also came under the scanner for their direct and indirect involvement in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.
There are over 20 lakh NGOs registered under the Societies Registration Act. Of these, 43,527 NGOs are registered under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to receive foreign grants.
A latest intelligence report accessed by Express states that “foreign funding is used to influence public opinion, raising hype over labour and human rights issues and promoting alienation in J&K and North-eastern states.”
“Some NGOs involved in conversion activities are actually getting money for distributing fellowships. They are actively promoting caste and religious divide,” claims the intelligence input.
In 2011-12 (latest MHA figure), Rs 539 crore was received as foreign funding by the NGOs for research work and over Rs 2,000 crore was wired in the country for the fields which are not even mentioned under 55 categories of social and cultural welfare work listed to get the FCRA licence.
An MHA annual report says that the highest amount of foreign contribution (Rs 2,253.61 crore) was received and utilised for “activities other than those mentioned in the category list.” Rs 148.96 crore was received for seminars, workshops and meetings while Rs 122 crore was moved for maintenance of religious preachers.
According to an official, the government is looking at amendments in the existing laws to ensure that suspicious funding patterns are checked.
In fact, the MHA in 2012 had moved a proposal to keep a check on the subsidiary avatars of foreign NGOs suspected to be involved in money-laundering.
“The proposal got stuck due to lackadaisical attitude of two other ministries – finance and corporate affairs – involved in the process. We did not get any response even after more than a year. We had clearly told them that subsidiary route would be the easiest way for the NGOs to pump in money to be used by foreign intelligence agencies or terrorist organisations and it should have been taken a little more seriously,” an official said.
Sources said with a hawkish Prime Minister, the functioning of these NGOs and the FCRA will be further reviewed.
Over 21,000 NGOs registered under the FCRA openly flouted the norms and did not file their annual returns for 2011-12.
The ministry had earlier observed that the NGO sector in India was vulnerable to the risks of money laundering and terror financing, and details of accounts with returns were important to ensure that foreign funding was not misused or diverted for any activity which could be detrimental to the national interest.
India is also facing threat from suspicious Chinese NGOs operating in Nepal bordering Indian villages.
According to a latest intelligence input, the central agencies are closely monitoring 28 such Chinese non governmental organisations that have recently come up in the neighbouring country and are suspected to be targeting Indian interests.
“If Chinese have managed a foothold in the area, presence of Pakistan’s ISI cannot be ruled out,” cautioned a senior officer.