Amended FCRA rules: NGOs must not hurt India
The government announced amendments to the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act, including a mandatory clause that says foreign funds to NGOs must not "prejudicially" affect the security, scientific or economic interest of the country. The clause has to be reaffirmed by NGOs annually. NGOs are also required to upload details of foreign contributions received and utilized by them every three months on the FCRA website.
What is the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA)?
The FCRA seeks to regulate foreign funding received by individuals and organizations in India. The rules require any such individuals/organizations to declare the quantum and the channels of utilization of these funds.
FCRA and the Intelligence Bureau
The Intelligence Bureau submitted a report to the Centre regarding foreign-funded NGOs "negatively impacting economic development". The report stated that Greenpeace India is a "threat to national economic security" as it misused foreign funds for political lobbying and slowing India's economic growth. The report also names several other foreign funded NGOs who misuse their funds in direct contravention of the FCRA.
Govt cancels FCRA licenses of 8975 organizations
The Ministry of Home Affairs canceled the licenses of 8975 organizations for violation of various statutes of the FCRA. According to the MHA notice, 10343 organizations failed submit annual returns for 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 and were issued notices. 229 organizations furnished responses to the MHA and the remaining had their licenses canceled for non-declaration of funds and other violations of the FCRA.
Have such cancellations happened before?
Under the Congress led UPA-2 government in 2012, a total of 4138 NGOs had their FCRA license canceled because of non filing of returns and non-declaration of contributions received.
Govt suspends Greenpeace India's license over FCRA violations
The government announced that it suspended the license of Greenpeace India for 180 days citing violations of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act. According to government officials, Greenpeace understated the quantum of funding that it received and also misused these funds for activities that contravene the FCRA provisions. The government also froze all their bank accounts in India and issued Greenpeace a show-cause notice.
Ford Foundation under MHA scanner for FCRA violations
The MHA has put Ford Foundation's activities under the scanner for funding organizations that may hurt India's security interests. The move came after the Gujarat government's complaint that the foundation is interfering with the judicial system of the country and working against communal harmony. A Gujarat CID report said the funds were used for "highly questionable activities... all bordering on if not outright political".
Civil society attacks government on NGO policy
Various civil society organizations criticized the government over their heavy handed approach on NGOs and other organizations who were accused of FCRA violations. Reacting to the suspension of licenses of many NGOs including Greenpeace India, the groups called the move a "frontal attack on the Right to Expression, Association and Dissension". Organizations said the BJP government is attempting to enforce an "authoritarian regime".
Do FCRA violations affect the economy?
Not declaring funds and not filing returns makes room for tax violations. The IB claims the negative impact of the NGOs' role on GDP growth to be "2-3 per cent per annum".