After the three fundraising campaigns run by journalist Rana Ayyub came under probe for violation of FCRA rules and non-utilisation of collection fund, Ayyub penned an article on Washington Post yesterday defending herself. However, she made a claim in her article which raises even more questions regarding the campaigns she ran on Ketto.
She claimed that the FIR filed against her by the Hindu IT cell was part of a vendetta against her, aiming to discredit her in the eyes of her readers and the country. She claimed that the group which has complained against her is very influential, followed on social media by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and almost his entire cabinet.
Responding to the allegations that she has not utilised all the money she had collected in her fundraising campaigns, Rana Ayyub claimed that she had given a cheque for $130,000 to a New Delhi hospital that was building a children’s ward ahead of the third wave of the coronavirus. However, the hospital returned the cheque to her due to political pressure, she claimed. She adds that the hospital management was concerned about her criticism of the government.
As she has not named the hospital, it is difficult to tell political pressure from which political party she is talking about. While there are some hospitals in Delhi run by the Central govt, most hospitals, including the private hospitals, come under the control of the Delhi government, which is run by the Aam Aadmi Party.
However, the major anomaly in her argument is the claim that she had given $130,000 to a hospital, which was returned to her. This means she had given almost ₹96 lakh to one single hospital. Now the anomaly is, this amount is more than the entire amount she has collected to help those impacted by Covid-19 in India, which was her third fundraising campaign on Ketto. In this campaign, a total of ₹82,60,899 was collected by Rana Ayyub, which means there is a shortfall of more than ₹10 lakh.
Moreover, her third campaign was to help Covid-19 affected people, not to donate money to hospitals, which are not the same things, even though related. The Ketto campaign page says that the beneficiaries of the campaign her daily wage earners. How can she give the money raised for daily wage earners to a hospital?
In the campaign, she had clearly stated that she will be helping people impacted by Covid-19, and the Ketto page on the campaign says that she has provided for close to 1300 families using the fund. She also claimed that she returned ₹60 lakh to foreign donors as she did not have FRCA registration, which would be from all the three campaigns she ran on Ketto. Amidst this, the numbers do not fit. If she helped 1300 families from the ₹82.4 lakh collected, returned foreign currency donations around ₹20 lakh (dividing ₹60 lakh in three campaigns), from where she had given ₹96 lakh to the Delhi Hospital?
And, if indeed she had given the money to a hospital and it was returned due to ‘political pressure’, why it was not revealed earlier? A hospital returning donation of almost a crore for political pressure will be big news, and the political party which put the pressure will attract huge outrage at the time of a global pandemic. At the time when governments were seeking donations from the public for Covid-19, including the PM CARES fund, any news of a hospital returning money for political pressure would have invited huge backlash, but still, it was never revealed by Rana Ayyub, which raises the question, why.
Now coming back to the question of where did she get the ₹96 lakh when most of the third campaign fund was already spent, someone may argue that it was a leftover amount from the first two campaigns. But that is also not possible, because the amount collected and spent in the first two campaigns does not match with this amount.
In her first campaign for slum dwellers and farmers, she had collected around ₹1.25 crore, and she had claimed on the campaign page that the entire amount was exhausted. The second campaign for relief work for Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra had raised ₹68 thousand, which was used to send ration kits to flood-affected people, she claims.
Another point to be noted that if she had given as big as an amount like ₹96 lakh to a Delhi hospital, it was never mentioned in any of the updates in the campaigns. Such a big donation, and the alleged refund by alleged political pressure, both should have been published widely by Rana Ayyub, given her access to global media, but it was never done.
Rana Ayyub also mentioned in her Washington Post article that “a big portion was paid in taxes, leaving less for the needy”. By this, she wants to blame the govt for taking tax from money collected for the needy. While this seems a valid argument, the fact is that she would not have to pay taxes had she followed rules. Rana Ayyub has complete disregard for Indian laws, and she violated multiple Indian laws in her three fundraising programs, which has landed in her trouble, not any vendetta by any political party.
Not only she accepted foreign currency donations without mandatory FCRA registration, she also ran the campaigns as personal campaigns. As the campaigns were not run through a registered NGO, the money in the campaigns were collected by Rana Ayyub personally, and it was up to her how she spends the money. In the absence of a registered NGO which enables tax exemption on the collected amount, she has to pay tax on the raised fund, that is as per the current law of the country applicable to all. Had she run the campaigns through an NGO with FCRA registration, she could have utilised the foreign donations and could have saved the tax amount too.
According to an email sent to donors of the campaigns by Ketto in the last week of August, there was a total tax liability of ₹90 lakh on the fundraising campaigns, and a total of around ₹1.44 crore was lying in the accounts. This means ₹54 lakh was lying spent unused till a month ago.
It is interesting to note that Rana Ayyub herself says that she was trying to tie up with FCRA registered NGOs so that her campaigns can be run through them to comply with the laws, but she was unable to find one. Given that India is filled with left-liberal NGOs, many of them with FCRA registration, given that none of them came forwarded to associate with her tells a lot about the credibility among her own folks. It reminds us of the episode when the anti-Modi media houses had refused to publish her ‘Gujarat Files’, which was also thrashed by the Supreme Court.