December 21st, 2016
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on December 14 cancelled the FCRA licences of seven NGOs, including the one run by activist Shabnam Hashmi, following some conflicting intelligence reports against them.
The NGOs whose license have been cancelled
Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD) run by Hashmi, Marwar Muslim Education and Welfare Society, Rural Development Research Centre, Ahmedabad, Navsarjan Trust, Gujarat, and three other NGO’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licences have been cancelled, official sources said.
The MHA took the decision of cancelling licence after it conducted an inquiry into the functioning of the NGOs whose licences were renewed recently. It is alleged that these NGOs are working against the public interest by using foreign funds, portraying the government in foreign countries as “anti-Dalit”.
With much embarrassment, it also cancelled the renewal of FCRA licence of Greenpeace India and two NGOs run by activist Teesta Setalvad — Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) – two months after “inadvertently” allowing their registration for five more years. Ironically, CJP was a co-petitioner in seeking a criminal trial of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was Gujarat Chief Minister and 62 other politicians and government officials for complicity in the violence that the state witnessed in 2002.
Reviewing license renewal
The MHA has ordered a review of 13,000 NGO FCRA license renewals to look for the possible violations of existing rules. The license of Greenpeace India and Sabrang Trust were cancelled by the government in the past, while Citizens for Justice and Peace was put in prior permission category, for accepting foreign funds with government permission.
There was another embarrassing moment when Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation’s license was renewed automatically. This incident led to the suspension of four officials including a Joint Secretary. The government cancelled IRF’s license permanently after declaring it a terror outfit.
Protests by NGOs
Many of the NGOs whose license has been cancelled, took to social media to protest against the decision. Many regarded it being “in disregard of the explanations and arguments”. Many are trying to seek an answer from the government on why it initially gave license and then cancelled it.
Following the cancellation, The NGO ANHAD told that the recent developments have been “a badge of honour” from what is termed as “the most openly intolerant government”. The NGO also said that the Narendra Modi government was “openly repressive of any kind of liberal and progressive civic dissent. We refuse to be cowed down and will continue to work with Indian donations.”
FCRA in political funding
BJP and Congress, on the other hand, had challenged Delhi High Court decision of holding them guilty of a violation of the FCRA by accepting donations from a foreign company. Under the 2010 amendment, the government relaxed both the parties for receiving grants from foreign companies.
Points to ponder
- Is it justified to allow political parties to carry on receiving foreign funding which is in violations of law?
- Corporate funding of political parties has already strengthened the corporate – politics nexus.
- Accepting such donations dilutes the power the political party might want to have. The corporate would want cases and laws to be passed in their favour, even if guilty of any wrongdoing. For example, Mining giant Vedanta violated several laws in bauxite mining at Niyamgiri. They encroached upon government land, got clearances from false information and illegally built an aluminium refinery at Lanjigarh, Orissa. Even as the company engaged in violations, the Orissa government colluded with it, and the Centre turned a blind eye. These are some of the findings of the four-member N C Saxena committee, which recommended that the company not be allowed to mine in the hills.