Modi govt’s crackdown on NGOs continues: Online tool launched to monitor foreign funding

The Home Ministry has launched an online tool that will enable lawmakers and bureaucrats to monitor the funds received through the FCRA Act and how they are being utilized. There are around 25,000 organizations which are permitted to receive funds for social, cultural, economic, educational and religious activities.

In an official press release, the Ministry said, “This web-based tool enables decision-makers in various Departments of Government to scrutinise source of foreign funds and their actual use in India. It gives them the capacity to take data-driven and evidence-based decisions regarding the compliance of the provisions of the FCRA, 2010.  It has analytical features to conduct big data mining and data exploration.  Its dashboard will be integrated with the bank accounts of the FCRA-registered entities through the Public Financial Management System for updation of transactional data on a real-time basis.”

The government believes that the tool will help authorities to better monitor compliance with the law and regulate the usage of the funds. The statement said, “Therefore, there are hundreds of thousands of such transactions annually which can be monitored effectively through this tool.  It will, therefore, help the stakeholders in  Government to better regulate acceptance and utilisation of foreign contributions.”

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We have reported in the past that the NDA government has been cracking down hard on FCRA NGOs. In 2015, the government had issued notices to over 10,300 NGOs for failing to submit their annual accounts under FCRA, 2010. The Supreme Court too had directed the Central government to enact a law which would ensure prosecution of NGOs which indulge in misappropriation of funds. As a consequence of Modi government’s crackdown on NGOs, foreign funding had dropped by 66% in 2016-17 compared to the previous year. Top Indian Universities including the JNU had also been barred from receiving foreign funds last year as they failed to submit their annual returns for five consecutive years despite several notices. Furthermore, Sonia Gandhi led Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust Amnesty India are also being probed for alleged FCRA violations.  Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Limited, with which Teesta Setalvad is associated, was also found to be violating FCRA norms as it received $2.9 lakh from Ford Foundation without registering itself under FCRA. The license of ‘Navsarjan Trust’ was cancelled in 2016 after the MHA observed, “Navsarjan Trust has come to adverse notice for its undesirable activities aimed to affect prejudicially harmony between religious, racial, social, linguistic, regional groups, castes or communities.”

There has been much speculation that Christian evangelicals indulge in proselytization in India with funds received from abroad. Recently, Compassion International, which is alleged to have conducted religious conversions in India under the garb of social welfare, shut down its operations after facing tough restrictions related to foreign funding.

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