Public Forum: NGO’s Licenses cancelled

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Public Forum: NGO’s Licenses cancelled

 

Government’s decision to cancel the licenses of nearly 20,000 NGOs issued under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) has raised the debate regarding the role of NGOs in India. There are both positive and negative responses after this move. Many are saying that NGOs are misleading public opinion and are working against national interest accused with non transparency and no audit of accounts receiving illicit funds; being only a dummy to convert black money into white. The foreign funds are being used in anti-development activities are being guided by the ideology against the Government and development. However, it is also being said that major use of foreign funds is for rural development, education of the poor, health etc. Since the Government cannot do everything, therefore, the NGOs came into picture. Therefore, banning the NGOs and selectively giving licenses is being seen as an authoritarian step.

The Issue:

  1. NGOs found violating various provisions of FCRA.
  2. FCRA license allows NGOs to receive foreign funds.
  3. Government barred 20,000 NGOs from receiving foreign funds.
  4. NGOs violated FCRA by not disclosing donation details.
  5. FCRA was enacted in 1976 and Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Bill, 2006 replaces FCRA 1976.
  6. FCRA regulates all grants, gifts and donations from NRIs.
  7. As per FCRA, organizations must renew certification every 5 years.

Every year, there is an audit and all details of NGO accounts are compulsory to be filed in the Home Ministry. If this is not done, the licenses of the NGOs is cancelled. As per the Report of the Intelligence Bureau, some of the terror funding was also being done through this route. But those opposing this move of the Government have said that this is being said so that the Government can justify itself in what it has been doing.

Civil society is important for any dialogue in a nation. Earlier, FCRA license used to be valid forever. The amendments brought in it few years ago said that it has to be renewed every 5 years. Both the major parties Congress and BJP have used it as per their convenience. Many controversial amendments have been made by Congress. In the present situation, every Government needs to look into what is in the in the larger interest of the states and the nation. Every case should be measured in accordance with the rules and regulations which are in place. Public interest has lot of grey areas. Who decides public interest is a matter of concern. These are the times when Government spokesperson should come forward and clarify why these decisions were made. This ambiguity and lack of information is something which ferments all kinds of wrong information.

NGOs are not above scrutiny. FCRA cancellation only means that the NGOs cannot get foreign funds. They do not cease to exist. All NGOs cannot be painted with the same brush. There are organizations which are also doing good work. There needs to be self regulation and a body which takes care of monitoring staffed by people from civil society as well.  There should be a discourse working towards nation building.