NGO funding: Government submits stringent draft guidelines to Supreme Court
Government of India submitted draft guidelines on regulating NGO funding to the Supreme Court. The guidelines are intended to bring accountability to NGOs and voluntary organizations which receive up to Rs. 1000 crore from the government.
Under the guidelines, NGOs wishing to receive funds must register with NITI Aayog's NGO Darpan Portal.
Let us know more on these new regulations.
NGO Funding: New government policy tightens grip
The 2014 IB Report
A 2014 Intelligence Bureau report pinned the economic impact of foreign funded NGO activities at 2-3% of GDP. It listed several development projects that had been stalled by NGOs and identified activities of Greenpeace, a prominent environmental NGO, as threatening for national economic security.
Modi government's policy approach to NGOs
The Modi government has been tightening grip on activities of NGOs. This has been the case since the 2014 Intelligence Bureau report blacklisted several NGOs for threatening India's economic security.
Crackdown on NGOs is also said to be driven by a pursuit to suppress dissent in society.
Prominent NGOs including activist Teesta Setalvad's NGO Sabrang Trust and Institute of China Studies have been affected.
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What do the guidelines say?
As per the guidelines, the government can blacklist NGOs and initiate criminal prosecution for misuse of funds or failure to meet deadlines.
The registration process seeks to facilitate smooth operation of the Income Tax and Foreign Contributions Regulation Acts (FCRA), shedding time taking procedures.
NGOs are further mandated to execute a bond whereby misuse will result in returning funds received along with 10% interest.
What could happen?
The government's move comes after years of inaction on improving accountability in NGO funding. While this can help keep misuse of funds in check, it can potentially limit NGO operations and affect their independence.
Stringent implementation can further put India under immense pressure from the international donor countries which have interests in funding various activities in the country, creating a bad international image.
The new NGO funding policy renders Indian NGOs similar to Chinese Governmental Non-governmental organizations or GONGOs. They are quasi- autonomous NGOs required to be registered with the government and perform activities funded and approved by the government. Room for dissent lessens significantly as a result.