Ford Foundation taken off govt watch list
Days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the U.S., the Home Ministry issued orders to remove the Ford Foundation from the "prior permission" category. The MHA sent a letter to the RBI on 16 March to remove the foundation from the list The move means banks will no longer need MHA clearance to process incoming funds for the Ford Foundation.
Edsel Ford and Henry Ford founded the Ford Foundation in 1936. It aims to economically empower and educate the world. It speaks for "human rights, democracy, the creative arts, and Third World development."
Rajnikant Patel, Gujarat's Minister of State for Home alleged that Ford Foundation had granted more than $500,000 to Teesta Setalvad's NGO. CJP and Sabrang Trust had got most of the funding from the foundation. 75% of that fund was utilised for running the two group's offices and not for philanthropic purposes. Moreover, the foundation was blamed for meddling in politics.
The Modi government had blocked $5 million grants by Ford Foundation over discrepancies in balance sheets. Amongst the NGOs who have been unable to furnish their balance sheets and annual reports is TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) which is the receipient of $100,000 in donation. Ford Foundation could face similar consequences as that of Greenpeace (wherein its FCRA licence was suspended.)
The Home Ministry has stowed the Ford Foundation on the 'watch list'. It has been asked that its funds be channelled with proper clearances. Ministry sources said the decision was taken after it was revealed that NGOs which have been getting funds from Ford Foundation had not filed the necessary documents, such as balance sheets and yearly reports.
Previously, Ford Foundation had come under the spotlight in 2011 when it supported the anti corruption movement led by Anna Hazare and donated $400,000 to Arvind Kejriwal's NGO Kabir.
In the wake of the Ford controversy, government scrapped the licenses of almost 9000 NGOs for violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). 10,343 NGOs were issued notices for not filing IT returns for the years from 2009 to 2012. Out of this, only 229 NGOs responded. Further, the government ordered banks against releasing funds coming from Ford Foundation to any NGO.
Ford Foundation's frozen funds in India amount to $4 million, thereby curtailing aid to the poor. Washington raised its concern after PM Narendra Modi's government came down on the Ford Foundation for meddling in domestic politics. Among the NGOs worst affected by the Ford Foundation's fund freeze is the Joint Women's Programme, which works for the empowerment of children and women.
Under pressure from the US, the Modi government gave permission to the Ford Foundation to 'partially' resume operations in India. Ford has acceded in theory to register its Indian wing under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999. Following this, Ford Foundation will be granted to use funds from its bank accounts in India to pay wages to its employees.
The Indian government has decided to remove the Ford Foundation from the 'prior permission' category to receive foreign funds for its activities in India. The move came after Ford Foundation registered itself under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, which enables oversight of foreign funding by the Finance Ministry. Other NGOs operate under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, under the Home Ministry.