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‘FCRA Bill virtually makes it impossible for NGOs to function’

The Voluntary Action Network India (VANI), an apex body of Indian voluntary organisations, has demanded that the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020, passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday be sent to a select or standing committee of Parliament for scrutiny. It said the amendments assume that all NGOs receiving foreign grants were “guilty unless proved otherwise,” virtually making it impossible for NGOs to function.

The association said in a statement that the Bill would be a “death blow to the development relief, scientific research and community support work of the NGO community as it prohibits collaboration with other Indian organisations.”

“At a time like this, when India is battling a deadly disease, with so much at stake and collaborations internationally that are to be encouraged, this would be a model of control, over and above the rules, regulations and certification processes, that stifles this important sector,” VANI said.

These restrictions run against the core mission of the government’s desire to strengthen India’s science/research performance.

No sub-granting

“Collaborations even with national NGOs which are compliant with FCRA regulations will be curtailed as the Bill talks of no sub-granting, therefore killing the overall spirit of collaboration,” it said.

The term Administrative Expenses in FCRA rules is defined to include all salaries (except for schoolteachers, doctors, and field researchers, trainers). “This means all the salaries of outreach workers, field staff who support villagers and rural communities are also counted as administrative expenses. So this amendment will be a major blow to organisations in terms of payment of salaries, professional fees, utility bills, travel and other such expenditure,” VANI said. The Bill limits administrative expenses to 20% of total foreign donations received, as against the 50% current cap.

“With limited domestic philanthropy, such guidelines that criminalise activities of even those certified as FCRA compliant, thousands of small NGOs which enable good work and are dependent on legal funds obtained internationally, will shut down, also endangering livelihoods of those dependent on them for a vocation,” VANI said.

As of now there are 22,450 NGOs or associations registered under the FCRA.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 1:56:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/fcra-bill-virtually-makes-it-impossible-for-ngos-to-function/article32664359.ece

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