FCRA registration of 6,000 NGOs lapses

Oxfam India’s application rejected.

January 01, 2022 11:48 am | Updated 11:47 pm IST - New Delhi

A video grab taken from Oxfam India website.

A video grab taken from Oxfam India website.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) registration of nearly 6,000 Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) has ceased to operate from January 1 as the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) refused to renew their application or the NGOs did not apply for one.

An MHA official said on Saturday that it declined to renew the FCRA registration of 179 NGOs, while 5,789 associations did not apply for a renewal before the December 31 deadline .

Explained | How will the foreign funding for charity issue be resolved?

The prominent names whose registration was not renewed include Oxfam India and Missionaries of Charity, a catholic religious congregation set up by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa due to “adverse inputs.”

Oxfam India that works for economic and gender justice among Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, and women stands to lose access to over ₹62 crore in its designated bank account. The NGO that claims to have helped 10 lakh people in Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh in the past one year had also transferred over ₹4 crore to 140 small NGOs and educational institutions before September 2020. The latest amendments to the FCRA brought in September 2020 bars NGOs to transfer foreign fund to other domestic NGOs. Some of its biggest donors are Oxfam, Australia (₹3.1 crore), Oxfam, Germany (₹2.8 crore), Oxfam, Great Britain (₹7 crore) and Stichting Oxfam International, Netherlands (₹7 crore).

Also read: | Missionaries of Charities funds were cut after FIR alleged religious conversion

The Ministry had earlier said that the NGOs whose request for renewal was turned down will not be eligible to either receive or utilise the foreign contribution in their designated bank accounts.

The validity of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) registration of those NGOs that were expiring between September 29, 2020- September 30, 2021 were given an extension till December 31, 2021 to apply for a renewal. FCRA registration is a mandatory requirement to receive foreign funds. On Friday (December 31), the Ministry extended the validity till March 31, 2022 provided the renewal request has not been refused or the NGOs applied within six-months of the expiry of their registration and before the December 31 deadline.

Also read: ‘Audit irregularities’ at Missionaries of Charity led to FCRA denial, says official

On Saturday, the updated list of NGOs whose registration “deemed to cease” mentioned the names of 5,933 NGOs. Till Friday, the total number of Active FCRA associations as per MHA’s website was 22,762 which now stands at 16,829, as many as 5,933 NGOs cease to operate.

The MHA official stated that the total number of NGOs up for renewal during this period stood at 18,778, while only 12,989 applied.

Also read: Missionaries of Charity denied FCRA nod

“As many as 5,789 associations did not apply for renewal of their certificates despite numerous reminders. Of the applications received, 179 were refused renewal after a scrutiny by the MHA found them ineligible to receive foreign funds. We are processing the request of other NGOs who have applied and due to the pendency an extension was given till March,” said the official.

According to Dhaval Udani, founder of DanaMojo, an online payment platform for NGOs, the number of NGOs whose FCRA “ceased” to operate doubled overnight. “It also does not seem to be a case where the NGOs were informed earlier and site updated now. 30% of the NGOs removed in one shot. No reason given,” Mr. Udani said.

Also read: Foreign funds and the Missionaries of Charity

Several NGOs could not complete the renewal process due to the pandemic and the amendments to the FCRA Act in 2020 that introduced other stringent compliance measures. Among the changes that were introduced, operationalising a designated FCRA bank account with the SBI’s main branch in Delhi was made compulsory. In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in November, the MHA said 19,000 NGOs had opened the account with the SBI in New Delhi.

The website shows that 14,835 NGOs have filed the annual returns for the financial year 2020-21, another mandatory exercise, failing which a penalty of 5% of the foreign contribution or ₹1 lakh fine, whichever is higher is imposed on the NGO. The annual returns have to be filed within the first nine months of the financial year.

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