Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released data where 6000 prominent organisations have been removed from registered organisations under the Foreign Contributor Regulation Act (FCRA) from January 1, 2022. These include Jamia Milia Islamia, Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, India Islamic Culture Centre (IISC) and Oxfam India.
Other organisations in this list are the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, Goa Football Association, Medical Council of India, The Lepra India Trust and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta, Delhi College of Engineering and others, reported Hindustan Times.
What Is FCRA Registration And Its Benefits
Initially enacted in 1976, it is a law of the Indian government that regulates the receipt of foreign contributions from foreign to India.
Talking about the benefits, FCRA Registration provides benefits in the following ways:-
1. Under section 12A registration, an NGO can avail of government funding.
2. If registered under sections 80G and 12A, NGOs don't have to pay tax for the rest of its life.
3. FCRA registration would attract foreign donations.
4. The donors can get a 50% deduction of donation amount from taxable income if the NGO registers under sections 80G and 12A.
Has Cancellation Done Before?
According to Economic Times, the central government had cancelled the FCRA licenses of about 20,600 NGOs in the last ten years. Most of them were done due to the non-filing of annual returns, a crucial requirement under the law.
According to The Hindu, the Ministry of Home Affairs had revoked the FCRA registration of an NGO based in Vadodara over the accusations of illegally converting Hindu community members, funding the anti-CAA protests as well as criminal actions to reinforce Islam. Gujarat police made the charges.
What Do NGOs Have To Say
"Government of India's decision to restrict the flow of foreign funds affects ongoing crucial humanitarian work in the country", stated Oxfam India.
Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, said that the organisation worked in the public interest alongside the government, communities, and frontline workers in India for years. During the pandemic, Oxfam India got together with health departments and ASHA workers and equipped them with lifesaving equipment and support. "The MHA's decision to deny renewal of FCRA registration will severely hamper these collaborations which were providing relief to those who needed it the most during times of crisis", he added.
According to the organisation, the latest development will hamper its 'Mission Sanjeevni'. Under the mission, they provided six oxygen generating plants and distributed 13,388 lifesaving medical equipment like oxygen cylinders, ventilators etc. and 116,957 safety and PPE kits. They also trained 48,000 ASHA workers in 9 states and gave them safety kits. Cash transfers were done for vulnerable communities like transgender people, sex workers, weavers, domestic violence survivors, etc.
Global Peace Initiative, a US incorporated organisation and its founder K.A. Paul has approached the Supreme Court of India and challenged the government's refusal to renew the FCRA registration of Missionaries of Charity. The writ petition has said that the cancellation of the licence will have a chilling effect on other NGOs, reported by The Hindu.
How Well The NGOs Did
The Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy (CSIP), Ashoka University, released a report titled Impact of COVID-19 on India's non-profit organisations' — published in Down To Earth. The report state that "three-fourths of the interviewed NPO was actively engaged in ongoing relief work, using their embedded presence in communities as a particular strength. This work ranged from last-mile delivery of relief material such as dry ration and sanitation kits, community awareness and sensitisation, setting up health camps and isolation facilities, rescuing stranded labour, provision of direct cash transfers, to offering rehabilitation of the distressed communities."
Voluntary Action Network India (VANI) released 'Study Report on National Policy on Voluntary Sector', which observed: "In a country like India, the voluntary sector bridges the gap between the government and the population of the country. It identifies the needs of the community and provides its support and services, even in the most untouched and marginalised areas, where the government is not able to reach", as per the Down To Earth report.
Given the contributions made by NGOs during COVID times, cancelling their FCRA registration will, directly and indirectly, hamper the working of these NGOs. Regulation is needed, but excessive regulation might prove to be futile for society.
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