Is India targeting foreign-funded NGOs?
On Thursday, January 6 at 19:30 GMT:
Thousands of NGOs in India, including internationally-known groups, face an uncertain future after losing government licences that allow them to tap into foreign funds for their operations.
Nearly 6,000 NGOs on January 1 lost clearances under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to draw money from foreign sources. The Ministry of Home Affairs said that it declined to renew the FCRA registration of 179 of those organisations, and that the remainder failed to apply for licence renewals before December 31. Affected groups can now only draw on funds generated within India.
Oxfam India is one of the biggest NGOs hit by the Indian government’s decision to “refuse renewal” of its FCRA licence. Amitab Behar, Oxfam India’s CEO, said on January 3: “The restriction will severely affect our ongoing crucial humanitarian and social work in 16 states across the country.” He urged the MHA to lift the funding restrictions “to ensure vulnerable communities keep receiving the support they need at this critical time of the pandemic.”
Missionaries of Charity, a Catholic aid organisation founded by Mother Teresa, has also had its lines of foreign funding blocked by a recent MHA ruling. On December 25 the ministry refused to renew the group’s licence under the FCRA, saying “adverse inputs were noticed” in its accounts.
The block imposed on Missionaries of Charity came days after authorities in Gujarat began investigating claims by complainants that the NGO forced girls in its shelters to convert to Christianity, allegations the group reject.
While the central government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) says the FCRA requirements help ensure effective security oversight of NGOs operating in India, critics say increasingly strict reporting and application requirements under the FCRA over the years have become hard for many small NGOs to meet, and that authorities are selective in how they apply the rules. Commentators say organisations voicing concerns about human rights in India have lost FCRA approval, while Hindu groups to whom the government is supportive face far less scrutiny.
In this episode of The Stream, we’ll look at what lies ahead for NGOs cut off from key funding, and what it means for the communities they support.