Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Is There A Rationale Behind MHA’s Vendetta Against ‘Foreign Funding’?

The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 is the most common tool used to regulate foreign NGOs in India. The law governs how certain individuals or associations can accept and use foreign contributions and prohibits the use of foreign funds for any activities deemed detrimental to national interest.

Under this law no association or NGO can receive foreign contributions for any cultural, economic, educational, religious or social program without either a registration or prior approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Organizations involved in any political activity cannot receive foreign contributions, and the government often views advocacy and lobbying for social or economic rights as political activity. Foreign agencies supporting such initiatives are either banned or have their “Permanent Registration (which albeit requires renewal every 5 years)” to donate funds reverted to “prior permission,” meaning the government must review every grant from such agencies and be satisfied that the grants are not a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the country before funding can be approved for the recipient Indian NPO/CSO.

Recently the Ministry of Home Affairs has brought some of the most internationally well known funding agencies under the microscope, including the Ford Foundation and the Gates Foundation. As a consequence, several NGOs have been facing a major cash crunch as many projects are dependent on foreign funding. Putting funders like the Ford Foundation on “prior permission” mode means inordinate delays, as all funding needs to be approved by the government. Some NGOs have downsized operations, and some have turned to Indian companies and individuals (with minimal success) for interim support to fund ongoing activities.

Every NGO in India has the right to exist and carry out its welfare or developmental activities. The laws exist to regulate not control NGOs. Hence, advocacy is not specifically disallowed, but the government is suspicious as to why a funder from another country would be interested in donating to an Indian NGO to advocate against, say, India’s nuclear program or industrialization policy? The government feels such NGOs should be able to raise funds for these activities in India from Indian companies or Indian foundations. However, the fact is, Indian companies and Indian foundations consider it safer to donate to education, health care or environmental causes. 
No civil society organization or NGO can be banned out of existence unless it can be proven that their activities are a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the country.

(from our legal news column - 
CAP's quarterly newsmagazine 'Philanthropy' Q1 April - Jun 2015 )

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