Centre drops two contentious clauses on NGOs

Wary of being dubbed “anti-civil society”, the Narendra Modi government has decided to drop a contentious clause in the Foreign Contribution Regulation Rules (FCRR), 2015, which would have made it mandatory for NGOs receiving foreign contributions to declare their social media accounts like their Twitter handle and Facebook pages with the government. It will be made optional instead. The government has also dropped the clause which required NGOs to post their returns and activities on a weekly basis. It will now be done quarterly.

The government will also help NGOs in hosting their own websites since it proposes to make all official communication and dealings online now.

The move comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States later this week as the government wants to shed its image of being one that is clamping down on foreign donors like the Ford Foundation, which has been put along with 16 others in the prior-permission category. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) cancelled the registration of Greenpeace India and also that of the Gujarat-based social activist Teesta Setalvad’s Sabrang Trust, which received funds from the Ford Foundation.

The MHA is all set to notify the amended Foreign Contribution Regulation Rules (FCRR), which will govern foreign contributions received by NGOs.

Through its draft amendment rules, which were made public in June this year, the Home Ministry had proposed making all dealings with NGOs online. After the draft rules were put up for comments, many NGOs wrote to the MHA that the ones working in the interiors of the country did not have access to the Internet or the wherewithal to create a website of their own. The government has now decided to host a website for such NGOs. “We will assist the NGOs in hosting a website of their own, since all dealings will be online from now on, a website will be a prerequisite now,” said a senior government official.

The MHA has, however, decided to stick to the clause where banks have to inform it about all foreign funds coming to an NGO account within 48 hours.

“Through this arrangement, we will be able to monitor if the foreign funds are being misused or not. Say, if we have received an adverse report from a State or any other intelligence agency about an NGO being involved in anti-national activities, then we can immediately stop the payment,” a senior Home Ministry official said. The NGOs, on their part, have opposed the move and said this was a ploy to pry on their activities.

The MHA has also reduced the number of forms to be filled in by the NGOs and now the registration, renewal and prior permission forms have been combined into one single form, called FC-3.

“Several NGOs gave us representations that it was not possible to post about their activities and expenditure statement on a weekly basis. We understood this and have decided to replace it with that on a quarterly basis,” said the official.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 11:13:27 AM |

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