Introduction to FCRA
From time to time there is a furor over receipt of donations from abroad. In December 2013 the Supreme Court gave the Central Bureau of Investigation a further period of eight weeks to report on the actual of NGO’s in the country.
FCRA regulates the receipt of funds by NGOs and is managed by the MHA.
Does the Government know the total amount of money received under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)? How does GOI ensure that recipient organizations are working in national interest?
Using the 2010-11 FCRA report this article seeks to provoke thought by sharing data of donor countries, donors-their objectives, recipients etc.
First, a bit about the regulatory framework for NGOs who receive foreign funds?
FCRA regulates the receipt of funds by NGOs and is managed by the MHA. Any organization that wants to receive contributions from abroad has to apply and get approval from the Home Ministry. The associations could be religious, social, educational, cultural or educational organizations.
If an NGO, whether registered or not, receives a contribution in excess of Rs 1 cr during a period of 30 days, the Bank has to report this to the Central Government within 30 days of the date of such last transaction. The NGO has to annually submit audited accounts to MHA who scrutinize the returns to ensure that contributions received for a particular purpose are used for that purpose only. It does a detailed check of randomly picked associations and collates the data received to present the FCRA Annual Report.
Trends in Foreign Contributions
As on 31.3.2012, there were 41,844 registered associations under FCRA. As compared to 2004-05 (UPA came to power in 2004) the amount received in 2011-12 has gone up by 85% and their number 38%. See table.
Reported receipts by NGOs between 1993-94 to 2011-12 were Rs 1,16,073 crs. Only about 55% NGOs gave audited accounts so amounts received by them are included in this report. Actual receipts were much higher.
Largest Donors Country wise
The top three donor countries consistently are USA, Germany, and UK.
Rs 20k crs by the U.S. and nearly Rs 8k crs by Germany/UK are large sums of money. Why are these countries remitting large sums of money? May be U.K. donates to help overcome the guilt of looting India during colonial rule or to continue with the colonial construct of the Indian Mind.
The economies of the U.S. and Europe, barring Germany perhaps, are under stress. Should not donors spend money on their own citizens!
Ironically receipts from Middle East countries were only app Rs 155 crs in 2010-11 even though media reports indicate funds come through hawala.
According to this report in Rediff.com there are atleast 40 charitable organizations in Saudi Arabia whose primary job is to raise money for funding terror in India. The links to Saudi Arabia became extremely clear when the police tracked a hawala transaction of $10,000 (about Rs 4,60,000) which was used to carry out the July 11, 2006 serial train blasts in Mumbai that killed 209 people.” To read more http://www.rediff.com/news/special/howterror- funds-are-pumped-in-from-saudi/20110811.htm
It is also possible that funds are routed through migrant working class who work in the Gulf.
Are such large contributions only for social work, a smokescreen for the Church to fund conversions to India/promote divisiveness tendencies in the country or create a population of believers with strong emotional bonding and dependence on the West’! As a popular TV anchors says ‘The nation would like to know’.
Yogi Sikand, a high profile activist, who spent years fighting for the so called oppressed – Dalits, minorities and women wrote an article titled ‘Why I gave up Social Activism’. The piece gave insights into how NGOs use the lure of money; foreign conferences etc, to accentuate if not create divisions in Indian society. To read more http://www.countercurrents.org/sikand190412.htm
Largest Donors: Agency wise trends 2010-11
This could mean that big donors have stopped giving or are doing so through different donor entities. Since total contributions from the big three i.e. U.S., Germany and U.K. are around the same levels it must be the latter.
For e.g. as a top 15 donor World Vision International USA remitted Rs 706 crs in 2008-09 but did not make it to the top donors list in 2010-11. Corresponding receipts for World Vision India Tamil Nadu were Rs 192 crs and Rs 234 crs respectively.
Another e.g. is Gospel for Asia a Texas based Christian missionary organization. In 2009-10 it made contribution of Rs 233 crs but does not feature in top 15 donors list in 2010-11. Perhaps, wanted to get off the MHA radar after the furor created by the “2008 Kerala Home minister statement that the ‘Church has bought nearly 2,800 acres of land, including a 2200 acre rubber estate” excerpts from Breaking India by R Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan.
As per site of World Vision, largest donor in 2008-09 Rs 706 crs, their Mission is “World Vision is an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.” To read more http://www.wvi.org/vision-and-values-0
A review of the objects of the top 15 donors indicate their work is to do with children, education, HIV/AIDS, health, human rights.
Had the Government of India invited these organizations to supplement its efforts?
Would foreign governments allow Indian NGO’s to do in their country what their NGO’s do in India? “Incidentally, there is an act in the USA called Foreign Agents Registration Act [FARA] and it provides for penalties up to ten years in jail for acting as a foreign agent or getting foreign funds without notification to the Attorney General. FARA was originally passed in 1938 to prevent the spread of Nazi ideas and propaganda”.
How does MHA ensure that in the name of child education and human rights divisive tendencies and conversions amongst the local people are not undertaken?
For eg World Vision International USA donated Rs 706 crs in 2008-09. “World Vision is one of the organizations blamed by natives as the chief investigator for the gunning down, in 2008, of a Hindu monk for their work in counteracting Christian proselytizing. Maoists claimed responsibility for the killing. The Evangelist-Maoist connection triggered Hindu- Christian violence’. Former Bihar Home Secretary, Afzal Amanullah, stated ‘Intelligence agencies report Maoists getting money from foreign-funded NGOs. Now, we have to do a lot of planning to stop this worrisome syndrome from spreading”. Breaking India by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan.
It is an acknowledged fact that conversions disturb the cultural and social fabric in society. The author experienced that first hand during a recent trip to Arunachal Pradesh.
There are, however, organizations that receive foreign funds and doing excellent work.
The Nation must question the need for such organizations!
Top 15 Recipient Associations Trends 2010-11
At the height of the Kundankulam agitation senior journalist Venky Vembhu wrote, “The NGOs that are at the centre of the latest action haven’t been named, but they are believed to be those associated with Bishop Yvon Ambroise, the Tuticorin church leader, who has been active in mobilising popular support for the protests at Kudankulam. Two of the NGOs associated with Ambroise – the Tuticorin Diocese Association (TDA) and the Tuticorin Multipurpose Social Service Society (TMSSS) – have been working in the area of fishermen’s livelihood, and their support for the anti-nuclear agitation draws on the fears to the fisherfolks’ livelihood from the nuclear power plant’. To read more http://www.firstpost.com/politics/church-role-in-kudankulam-protests-merits-wider-probe-228719.html
Ford Foundation has been in the news lately because of grants to some high profile individuals. Since the Foundation is a grant making organization and not a recipient of funds its site has consolidated audited financial statements only. The goal of Ford Foundation India is ‘The goal of our work is to address persistent poverty by empowering socially marginalized groups and improving government policies’.
Do the goals of many NGO’s not reflect an air of superiority amongst the Western world as if they are solely responsible for human rights, health and poverty alleviation etc worldwide.
Social service organizations are not the only recipients of foreign donations. Large number of Think-Tanks benefit from such generosity too. To read more http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/business/foreign-funding-of-ngos
About NGO’s who received Foreign Funding
A number of recipient organizations have not uploaded audited accounts on the site. Should NGO’s be covered by the Right to Information Act even though they use foreign money?
A number of associations who receive money refer to address persistent poverty by empowering socially marginalized groups, removal of injustice, fight violence against women etc. These issues are typically pursued by Western Governments. For e.g. have you read reports of religious freedom and women’s rights on their own countries.
Action Aid India’s Annual Report 2012-13 refers to National Study on the status of Muslims in India. Does this not tantamount to interfering in India’s domestic affairs? How would UK respond if a RSS Think Tank did a study on the condition of Muslims in UK?
In a deeper sense there is a fundamental flaw with organizations who over-emphasize the western concept of human rights. It makes Indians look at the world through a western prism instead of an Indic one.
Maharishi Aurobindo said, “Dharma is the Indian conception in which rights and duties loose the artificial antagonism created by a view of the world, which makes selfishness the root of action, and regain their deep and eternal unity. Dharma is the basis of democracy which Asia must recognize, for in this lies the distinction between the soul of Asia and the soul of Europe”.
Trends of State wise receipt of Foreign Contributions
Column one gives the number of NGOs who have not submitted their returns to MHA. Tamil N, Andhra P, Maharashtra, Karnataka, West B, Orissa and Bihar share the honors.
One of the effects of the Tsunami that hit Tamil Nadu in 2004 was the surge in foreign contributions to the State from Rs 775 crs in 2002-03 to an all time high of Rs 2,118 crs in 2006-07.
Four southern states account for 44% of reported receipts. These states received Rs 1,603 crs in 2002-03, up 217% in 2012-12. It is well known that the Church is increasingly active in these states – would be interesting to compare the Christian population in these states then and now. Note that even a small state like Uttaranchal received Rs 120 crs during 2011-12.
Can MHA monitor the working of NGO’s in so many states? Are the State Governments involved and to what extent?
Top Recipient Districts of Foreign Contributions
Among the districts, the largest recipients of contributions were Bengaluru Rs 774 crs Chennai Rs 773 crs, Mumbai Rs 644 crs, Kolkatta Rs 341 crs, Ananthapur Rs 275 crs, Hyderabad/Secunderbad Rs 325 crs, Quilon Rs 369 crs.
These are huge sums of money that require continuous and serious monitoring to ensure that end utilization matches the purported purposes for which the monies were received.
Utilization of Foreign Contributions
In 2010-11 Rs 681 crs was spent for construction of maintenance of schools and colleges. Since most of the recipients are Christian organizations it would be correct to assume that a major portion of amount was received by them.
Most would be aware that the Christian community plays a dominating role in the field of school education. Whilst giving them due credit one of the reasons is because the Indian Christian community inherited Jesuit schools started by the British, the author went to one such school.
Article 29 and 30 of the Constitution conferred rights to minorities to establish and administer educational institutions to promote its religious tenets, philosophy etc. However, when donations received from abroad allow the community to set up more schools where the students are predominantly Hindu, then it only accentuates the control that the community has over education.
A very good example is the Ryan International Group who runs 128 schools across 18 states. When its founder, Dr A F Pinto was conferred The Excellence Award for 2012 by The Christian Chamber of Commerce and Industry a blog in the Times of India said “How much of the “success” of such minority-institutions (in particular, Catholic-faith based schools and educational groups) is due to the relative “freedom” they enjoy from government interference and controls (e.g. minority-institutions are exempt from the recent RTE legislation), as well as the generous funding they receive from abroad?”. To read more http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/reclaiming-india/entry/of-islamic-vc-funds-andchristian-chambers-of-commerce
Not sure if the framers of the Constitution had envisaged this situation when special rights were given to minorities to administer and establish their own institutions.
The author is not suggesting that India becomes inward-looking again but every nation has a right to safeguard its national interests, culture and social fabric.
The new Government needs to take a closer look at the need for foreign funding, NGO goals/working and synergise them with national interest.
Note – Data taken from the FCRA report published by the MHA and relevant web sites. Any errors are unintended and regretted.