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Government tightens the noose: New rules for NGOs need staff to declare they won’t be indulging in religious conversions

Addressing a key issue of religious evangelism carried out by many foreign-funded NGOs, the government issued a notification announcing the changes made in the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules, 2011.

In order to put a curb on the rampant religious conversions associated with many foreign-funded NGOs, the Home Ministry has modified rules for foreign funding for key officials and members of the NGOs receiving overseas funds. The government has asked the NGO members and office bearers to attest that they were not prosecuted or convicted for religious conversions.

Addressing a key issue of religious evangelism carried out by many foreign-funded NGOs, the government issued a notification announcing the changes made in the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules, 2011, which states that the individuals may not inform the government about gifts received by them worth up to Rs 1 lakh. The notification mandates that “key officials and members of the NGOs” should mandatorily certify that they have not been “prosecuted or convicted” for “conversion from one faith to another” and for “inciting communal tensions and disharmony”. According to FCRA 2010, only the applicants such as directors who were soliciting approval to receive foreign donation were required to make such a declaration.

Furthermore, the notification also said that every member of an NGO are obligated now, under oath, through an affidavit, to testify that they have never been involved in “diverting” foreign funds or propagating “treason” or “advocating violent means”. Earlier, this declaration was to be given by the applicant of the NGO only. However, after the changes, all members of the NGO need to give this declaration.

The amended FCRA allows individuals to receive personal gifts valued up to Rs 1 lakh without informing the government about it anymore. Earlier, the threshold value was Rs 25,000, as per the market value of the gift item in India. Apart from this, in the case of a medical emergency, if aid is needed during an abroad visit, the receipt of foreign donation has to be informed to the government within a month of such acceptance, as per the amended rules.

The government should be fully intimated about the entire details, including the source, the approximate value in Indian rupees and the reason for which and the way in which it was used. As per previous regulations, the intimation was required to be given within two months.

Ever since the Modi government came to power in 2014, it has come down hard against the shady NGOs who have been receiving illicit foreign funding to carry out their nefarious designs in India. Under the Modi government, nearly 18,000 NGOs which were found to be violating the various clauses of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act were stripped of their permission to receive foreign funding. With these new amendments, the Modi government aims to restrain the menace of pervasive religious evangelism that is often the core objective of many foreign-funded NGOs under the guise of charity and philanthropy.

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