‘Civil Society’ organisations often use the veneer of humanitarian efforts and charity to engage in wholesale fraud. As much as NGOs and foundations would like to claim otherwise, too many of them engage in behaviour that cannot be deemed ‘civil’. We have reported extensively on such organisations, In this report, we shall discuss the background of one such organisation, Care India.
Recently, Smriti Irani had hit out at one of the top functionaries of Care India, Neera Saggi, for soliciting donations in the name of the Government of India. As it turns out, Care India is not the legal name of the organisation even though that is the name it advertises itself as. The actual legal name of the organisation is CARE India Solutions for Sustainable Development.
Carre India also claims to work with state governments and in projects involving the central government. According to its website, it has been supporting the Bihar government in the health sector for the past 10 years and is also helping them deal with the Coronavirus crisis. It was also hired by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as the central training agency for Integrated Child Development Services-Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS), which is a scheme in partnership between the GoI and states.
As evidenced by Smriti Irani’s tweet above, functionaries in the NGO are known to use their work with governments to then solicit funds. Given the nature of the organisation and their work, it is perhaps a necessity to investigate its background.
The Neera Saggi mentioned above is in a soup of her own. She is accused of involvement in the multi-crore IL&FS fraud. An audit discovered that transactions worth over Rs. 6000 crores undertaken by IL&FS Financial Services Limited (IFIN) were in violation of governance norms. It was soon after the scam came to light after several of its subsidiaries defaulted on huge loans. The debt of the entire group was upwards of Rs. 90,000 crores.
Neera Saggi was the director at the IFIN between 2015 and July 2016. She claimed that she was innocent of the allegations levelled against the directors as she had separated ways with the firm in 2016. However, that is contrary to the findings of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO). An interim order by NCLT, Mumbai in July 2019 records the findings of the SFIO.
The order states, “With regard to proposed Respondent No. 336, Neera Saggi, SFIO has stated in its complaint before the Special Court at Mumbai that the independent Directors and CFO of the company are appointed with the objective to help the company in improving corporate credibility and governance standard but they ignored al alarming indicators and failed to save the interest of the company and its stakeholders by not raising of these issues in the Board Meetings and remained a mute spectator.”
“It is revealed that in connivance with each other, the Independent Directors, Directors, CFO of the IFIN, group CFO abused their positions and used various modus operandi to continue lending from IFIN to group entities, by causing wrongful loss to IFIN & its stakeholders such as investors and creditors whose money it was misusing for fraudulent lending, which ultimately resulted in the ultimate loss to the company, and its creditors,” the order added.
It concluded, “Investigation further revealed that the Audit Committee members and the Independent Directors, Director, CFO of the IFIN and group CFO of the IL & FS were aware of the stressed asset portfolio, the modus operandi used for granting loans to group companies of existing defaulting borrowers in order to prevent their being classified as NPA.”
The Foreign Funding of Care India
As has been mentioned above, the actual legal name of Care India is ‘CARE India Solutions for Sustainable Development’. In its submissions to the Home Ministry, Care India revealed that it had secured Rs. 153,99,47,426.00 as donations for social purposes and Rs. 3,49,83,017.00 for educational purposes. A significant amount of its donations came from CARE organisations abroad. Other prominent donors were Amazon Development Centre India Private Limited and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
USAID donated Rs. 2,47,24,054.00 to Care India in 2018-19 and Amazon Development Centre contributed Rs. 29,19,281.00. The total contribution from foreign sources during the financial year was Rs. 157,49,30,443.00 and as a transfer from a local source was Rs. 6,66,49,693.00. When this amount is added to the carried forward foreign contribution at the beginning of the year and the interest in income, its total foreign contribution amounts to Rs. 222,40,70,098.00.
Care India funds Evangelical Organisations
One of the organisations that Care India diverted its funds to is the Evangelical Social Action Forum. On its website, it does not advertise its missionary activities, however, the ‘Evangelical’ in its name is obviously a giant red flag. The organisation has received huge donations from Care India. It operates in Kerala. It received upwards of Rs. 52 lakhs from Care India in 2018-19.
Its website states, “Based on the conviction that the command of Jesus Christ, “Love your neighbour as yourself’’ has a social dimension, they brainstormed for several months on how to translate their conviction into action. Coupled together with their mustard seed-like faith and their conviction resulted in the birth of Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF) in 1992 to serve the poor and the marginalised and create opportunities for their holistic development.”
The website also states. “The story of ESAF is akin to the growth of a mustard seed. A humble beginning that flourishes to be impactful and providing shelter to many. The seeds were sown in the early 1990s. Burning issues of the day like unemployment of the educated youth and abject poverty in the rural households made a few members of the Kerala Evangelical Graduates’ Fellowship (EGF) think radically about the relevance of their faith in addressing the social problems around them.”
Other top functionaries of Care India
Other top functionaries of Care India apart from Neera Saggi include Yamini Aiyar, the daughter of senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar. She is a Board Member at the organisation. Her father is, of course, known to make horrendous remarks against the BJP and Prime Minister Modi and is infamous for allegedly asking for Pakistan’s help in defeating Narendra Modi in one of his visits to the country.
Apart from her, there is Shyam Divan who happens to be a senior Supreme Court advocate and works primarily on civil litigation across banking, securities law, arbitration, administrative law and environmental law. Gautam Chikermane, the Vice President of Observer Research Foundation, also sits on its board.