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1000s of NGOs awaiting foreign funds in limbo after Centre's strict regulations: Report

1000s of NGOs awaiting foreign funds in limbo after Centres strict regulations: Report

Days after the Indian government blocked a charity founded by Mother Teresa from receiving foreign funds citing 'adverse inputs', a report by The Hindu has revealed that thousands of NGOs and charitable trusts are similarly awaiting a decision on receiving foreign funds by the year-end.

As per the report, experts have claimed that the tough line by the Centre would mean that at least 10-15% of the 22,000 NGOs registered under the Foreign Contributions (Regulations) Act (FCRA) are likely to be denied permissions, and stopped from accessing funding from abroad.

In addition, organisations who have made applications that are pending for clearance could be stopped from accessing foreign funds unless the government extends the date of scrutiny of renewal applications by some months.

As per Sanjay Agarwal, FCRA accounting expert, the government has made it necessary for renewals to follow the same rigorous validation process as that for a fresh registration which include many more compliance requirements, including certification that the NGO is not a "threat to public interest" or "national security."

The Centre has cited that the move is in consideration of public interest and national security against NGOs that work on human rights, child labour and slavery issues, as well as groups working on climate change issues.

Moreover, the shortage of staff in the FCRA division of the Ministry and the pandemic, both not of the organizations' making, are claimed to have further delayed the process of clearance and renewal.

An official stated that key officers dealing with the division were recently transferred and creating new login ID and password took time, leading to many applications not being cleared despite meeting the eligibility criteria.

Mr. Agarwal said, "I would say there are two issues an NGO faces - one is non-compliance, and given the number of complex rules, it is quite easy to show that an NGO has broken one rule or another. The second issue comes if there is media glare or the NGO focuses on some kind of activity that the government is unhappy about [like Human rights and economic issues".

A few days ago, the Indian government had blocked Mother Teresa's charity from receiving funds from abroad, just days after it faced a police investigation for "hurting religious sentiments of Hindus" amid rising intolerance towards Christians in India.

The Missionaries of Charity, which was started by Mother Teresa in 1950 and runs a network of shelters across India led by nuns to help the poor, was denied the licence to continue to receive funds from abroad, cutting the charity off from vital resources.

The home ministry, which made the decision on Christmas Day, said it had come across "adverse inputs" when considering the application. On the whole, there have been allegations that the rules are susceptible to subjective interpretations by officials or at the behest of the government, and have increasingly been tightened to hamstring recipients of foreign contributions especially those that fall out of favour of the government of the day in terms of policies and political positions.

The rejection of the application comes less than two weeks after Hindu hardliners accused the charity of carrying out forced conversions of Hindus to Christianity in a home for girls it runs in Vadodara in the state of Gujarat, as per a report by The Guardian.

The accusations, which the charity fiercely denies, were that the charity was "luring" poor young Hindu women into becoming Christian by forcing them to read Christian texts and take part in Christian prayer.

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