Hon’ble Prime Minister of India,
7 Race Course Road
February 17, 2015
Dear Prime Minister
Subject: Impartial Commission of Inquiry on foreign funded NGO’s and creation of National Social Service Fund to support genuine social service organizations.
We the undersigned request you for an appointment to discuss the following issue in detail.
Foreign funded NGOs (FFNGOs) have been on the government’s watch list for a while now. Both NDA and UPA governments have had serious issues with several such FFNGOs. But the actions taken against a select few do not appear to be the product of a well thought out policy.
The following is a partial list of charges against some of the FFNGOs:
- Misappropriation of funds, lack of transparency and accountability: A CBI analysis of NGOs across the country showed that of the 22,39,971 NGOs functioning in 20 States, only 10% (about 2,23,428) submitted annual returns. Of 5,684 NGOs in the six Union Territories, only 50 filed their balance sheets. None of the NGOs in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura file returns. (The Hindu, January 6, 2015).
- Political activism with foreign funds: FCRA rules and regulations specifically forbid the use of foreign funds for undertaking “political activities”. Yet a large proportion of FFNGOs have been indulging in a whole range of political activities, including campaigning for or against certain political parties during elections.
- Motivated interventions in economic policies: Some leading NGOs have been in the forefront of mobilisingresistance against nationally important development projects (such as in the power sector) allegedly at the behest of foreign agencies causing enormous damage to India’s growth potential.
- Endangering geopolitical security of India andproselytizing under the guise of “Development”:Many NGOs claiming to be involved in “human rights”, “social empowerment”, “rural development”, etc., are alleged to be fronts for India-based or foreign-supported extremist political organizations with socially disruptive agendas and have been found lending support to secessionist movements. Some Christian missionary groups, under the guise of “developmental” organizations, also carry out proselytization activities in India that often disrupt social harmony and end up damaging the delicate social fabric of India.
It is estimated that “of the 20 lakh registered NGOs and societies in the country, only 30,000 or so (about 1.5%) are actually doing developmental work” (www.outlookindia.com/article/Oh-What-A-Racket/221515). The widely-known Citizens for Justice and Peace is only one among many NGOsthat face serious charges of buying personal luxuries out of funds meant for victims or disasters.
As per the report published by the Home Ministry for the year 2011-12, some 22,702 NGOs reportedly received Rs.11,546crores as foreign contributions.It is widely believed that the inflow turns out to be much larger if non-legal flows as well as funds that come through UN system (which are not under the purview of FCRA) are added to these numbers. Apart from the FCRA or UN route, there are perhaps other lesser known routes of raising foreign funds. There are cases of NGOs like that of the world-famous Narmada Bachao Andolan,which does not even have a bank account and yet could run high-powered national and international campaigns to obstruct and stop major development projects.
To deal with the situation, the Government of India needs a coherent, transparent policy towards FFNGOs, both secular and religious. We appeal to the Government to:
Ø Appoint an impartial Inquiry Commission: Constitute a high-powered Commission of Inquiry into the functioning and sources of funding of all foreign funded NGOs in India to discover:
- Whether the provisions of FCRA, including the provision forbidding political activity, are being complied with;
- The nature of the donor agencies funding NGOs in India and the stated and hidden agendas of those agencies;
- Evidence of corruption, if any, in the utilisation of foreign funds;
- Linkages of FFNGOs with secessionist and other antinational outfits, if any;
- Evidence of hawala transactions, if any;
- Use of foreign funds for political activities including lobbying and campaigning.
However, this requires that “political activity” bedefinedrigorously. For instance, are advocacy campaigns for enactmentof new laws to come under “political activity”? Do campaigns against selected political parties in the name of “combating communalism” constitute political activity or not?
Ø Restrictions on foreign-funded activism or on lobbying with foreign governments: While this Commission of Inquiry carries on with its investigations, we urge the Government to enact a law banning the use of foreign money for carrying out political or religious activity in the country. While political and religious freedoms-- including critiquing development projects perceived to be harmful--are guaranteed under the Indian Constitution, these rights must be exercised with locally raised resources. There also needs to be a ban on NGOs lobbying with foreign governments to seek punitive action against India under the guise of protecting human rights or religious freedom.
Ø Create alternative sources of funding for social organisations within India: The Companies Act 2013 requires corporate entities to spend at least 2 per cent of their profits on societal good. For proper utilisation of these corporate social responsibility funds, these should be compulsorily deposited into a National Social Service Fund under the charge of an autonomous body on the lines of the Election Commission of India. This body should have a set up in every state capital. Voluntary agenciesengaged in providing social services, creating educational institutions, running advocacy campaigns, human rights work etc., may be funded through this National Fund in a transparent manner based on well-defined rules and procedures.
Ø Demand transparency of accounts from NGOs: It should be mandatory for FFNGOs to post details of income and expenditure on their websites, apart from submitting duly audited accounts to tax authorities every year.
We look forward to an early response to our petition.
(Signed by Madhu Purnima Kishwar)
Professor CSDS & founder MANUSHI
On behalf of
Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Arsha Vidya Gurukulam; R Vaidyanathan, Professor, IIM Bangalore;Rajiv Malhotra, Director, Infinity Foundation; PR Krishna Kumar, Founder, Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, Coimbatore, J K Bajaj, Director, Centre for Policy Studies; K Gopinath, (Prof IISc Bangalore), DK Hari,Bharat Gyan; Nanditha Krishna, Hon Director, C.P.Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation; Vijayalakshmi,Secretary Heritage; Amit Malviya, Convener, Jijnasa; Sandeep Balakrishna, Director, India Facts Research Centre; Michel Danino, Convener, International Forum for India’s Heritage.
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