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Monday, June 5, 2023

FCRA Amendment rattles Oxfam India CEO, NGO lobby, ‘civil society’ and ‘secular’ politicians

A new amendment to the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) has been introduced in the Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on 20 September.

Here are the key changes included in the amendment :

  • Reduction in use of foreign contribution for administrative purposes: NGOs which have obtained the FCRA license cannot use more than 20 per cent of the foreign contributions to meet their administrative expenses like paying salaries. Until now, they were permitted to utilise up to 50 per cent of their foreign funding to meet administrative expenses.
  • Prohibition to accept foreign contribution: It bars any public servant (as defined in Section 21 of IPC), judge, government servant or employee of any corporation or any other body controlled or owned by the Government from receiving any foreign funds.
  • No third-party transfer of foreign contribution: It prohibits any transfer of foreign contribution to any association/person. This means that an FCRA NGO receiving a foreign contribution cannot transfer it to another person/NGO, thus cutting down a possible route for misuse of such donations. Earlier, one FCRA NGO could transfer funds to another FCRA NGO.
  • Aadhaar for registration: Any new FCRA registration and renewal of FCRA licence will now require the Aadhaar number of all office bearers or a copy of passport or OCI card in case of a foreigner.
  • Centralised FCRA account: Foreign contribution can only be received in an account designated as ‘‘FCRA Account’’ which shall be opened in such branch of the State Bank of India at New Delhi, as the Central Government may, by notification, specify. The funds received in SBI, Delhi branch can later be moved to other accounts in any other scheduled bank. This centralised routing of funds will make it easier for Govt. to monitor inflow of foreign funds.
  • Restriction on fund usage in case of violation: If a person accepting foreign contribution is found to have contravened any provisions of the Act after a summary inquiry, then the central government may, pending further inquiry, bar or restrict the usage of un-utilised foreign funds. Additionally, the bill adds that government may suspend FCRA registration of a person for an additional 180 days after the initial 180 day suspension – i.e. for a total of 360 days.
  • Renewal of license: Under the Act, every person who has been given a certificate of registration must renew the certificate within six months before expiration. The Bill provides that the government may conduct an inquiry before renewing the certificate to ensure that the person making the application: (i) is not fictitious or benami, (ii) has not been prosecuted or convicted for creating communal tension or indulging in activities aimed at religious conversion, and (iii) has not been found guilty of diversion or misutilisation of funds, among others conditions.
  • Surrender of certificate: Central Government is now enabled to permit any person to surrender the certificate granted under the Act, if, post an inquiry, it is satisfied that such person has not contravened any provisions of the Act, and the management of its foreign contribution (and related assets) has been vested in an authority prescribed by the government.

As part of its Statement of Objects and Reasons, the amendment states –

“The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 was enacted to regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations or companies and to prohibit acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

The annual inflow of foreign contribution has almost doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, but many recipients of foreign contribution have not utilised the same for the purpose for which they were registered or granted prior permission under the said Act. Many of them were also found wanting in ensuring basic statutory compliances such as submission of annual returns and maintenance of proper accounts.

This has led to a situation where the Central Government had to cancel certificates of registration of more than 19,000 recipient organisations, including non-Governmental organisations, during the period between 2011 and 2019. The criminal investigations also had to be initiated against dozens of such non-Governmental organisations which indulged in outright misappropriation or mis-utilisation of foreign contribution.

Therefore, there is a need to streamline the provisions of the said Act by strengthening the compliance mechanism, enhancing transparency and accountability in the receipt and utilisation of foreign contribution worth thousands of crores of rupees every year and facilitating genuine non-Governmental organisations or associations who are working for the welfare of the society.”

FCRA NGO lobby and Lutyens’ civil society is upset

One high-profile member of the powerful Western-funded NGO lobby has come out strongly against the proposed FCRA amendment. Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India who has previously worked for another Bharat-baiting Western org Amnesty, called these amendments a “devastating blow” and claimed it was “stifling and squeezing the nonprofit sector by creating new hurdles for foreign aid which could help lift people out of poverty, ill health and illiteracy.”

NGOs like Oxfam, a virtual arm of the UK Govt which till recently received around 40% of annual income from UK govt and other British public authorities, had a free run during the UPA years. They carried out their ‘activism’ at will, impeding development works, alienating tribals and backward sections from the mainstream, and setting the agenda for the government in areas like education (RTE) and social policy. They still exercise enormous influence, but are chafing at the slightly increased scrutiny the Modi Government has subjected them to.

Oxfam was in the middle of a global controversy recently when it was revealed that its aid-workers used prostitutes in Haiti and Chad, and that it tried to contain sexual harassment allegations against a senior employee. One of Oxfam pet peeves is ‘inequality’, as can also be seen from Amitabh Behar’s articles in mainstream media. So how how efficient is Oxfam in using the aid grants & donations it receives, and how equitable are the salaries it gives to its own head honchos?

Oxfam UK was found to have spent £121.9m of their total income of £408m (30%) just on staff salaries, with eleven employees earning over £100,000 in 2017 – a rise from seven in 2016! In Bharat, Amitabh Behar pockets a cool INR 54 lakhs per annum, while preaching the rest of us about the evils of wealth concentration in hands of a select few. Behar, an M. Phil in Political Science from Jawahar Lal Nehru University, is also a fan of Congress and called the 2019 Lok Sabha elections a ‘moment of reckoning for India’s progressive civil society’ claiming the Indian republic’s founding ideals were ‘under threat’.

As per some social media accounts, Amitabh Behar is the brother of Anurag Behar, who is CEO of Azim Premji Foundation, and the brothers were introduced to the world of NGOs and civil society at an early age by their IAS father Sharad Behar, former Madhya Pradesh chief secretary and adviser to Congress’ Digvijay Singh during his term as Madhya Pradesh CM, who in 2013 was invited by AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal to help with drafting the much-touted mohalla sabha legislation.

The amount of foreign funds being pumped into FCRA NGOs can be seen through the example of National Foundation for India (NFI), an organisation that supposedly works for ‘poverty alleviation’. Incidentally, Amitabh Behar was Executive Director for NFI in the past, and the NGO has received around $1 million in funds from billionaire liberal philanthropist Pierre Omidyar among others (Omidyar’s website has removed the page on NFI but it can be seen in internet archives). Clearly, such Western-funded FCRA NGOs are spreading a kind of new age colonialism, imposing controversial Western social models on other civilizations.

As per the one-man FCRA encyclopaedia @by2kaafiNFI’s closing FD (fixed deposit) balance on Mar 31,2019 was Rs. 35.77 crore, while the total fresh foreign fund inflow in 2018-19 itself was Rs. 8.4 crore, all of which NFI transferred to 170 FCRA-NGOs all across Bharat! To get a sense of the scale of money involved, total FCRA inflow from abroad per annum is ~ Rs. 17000 Crore; FCRA unspent cash from past inflows (stashed in Bank FD): Rs. 16000 Crore; while Indian corporates annual CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) budget is Rs. 12000 Crore.

One particular high-profile case of FCRA misuse is worth mentioning here. In 2016, eminent lawyer Indira Jaising and her husband Anand Grover’s (who made a last minute appeal for clemency to convicted terrorist Yakub Memon) NGO ‘Lawyers Collective’ had its FCRA license cancelled for flouting norms – she had illegally accepted foreign funds during her term as Additional Solicitor General of India during UPA rule. The amendment explicitly barring public servants from receiving foreign funds is likely meant to prevent such misuse in future.

Congress MPs oppose FCRA Amendment

Congress MP Anto Antony from Pathanamthitta, Kerala criticized the FCRA amendment during the debate in Lok Sabha. Using the favoured stratagem of pseudo-seculars, he alleged that the bill ‘targets minorities’.

“This government wants to suffocate thousands of government agencies and NGOs…it is sabotaging help from other countries. FCRA registrations are being cancelled without valid reasons. These NGOs are helping the Indian economy and providing lakhs of jobs. Many of these registrations are cancelled for mere technical reasons (and this) is clearly an attack on minorities,” the MP said.

Now, take a look at what the wife of this Congress MP had said during a ‘Karishma Crusade’ 2019 event – “Conversion is divine duty and constitution gives us the right.India should become a Christian nation”. Any wonder MP Antony is upset with the FCRA Amendment?

Another Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi (son of multiple-term ex-Assam CM Tarun Gogoi) had an equally startling take against the amendment – as reported by a The Hindu journalist, he claimed “political dissent will be stopped with this Bill.” So if you thought that FCRA allowed for funding of health, education and poverty-alleviation projects, think again – as per this Congress MP and other secular politicians, foreign funds can be used to interfere in the country’s political process.

NCP leader Supriya Sule (daughter of Sharad Pawar) also questioned the logic behind the Amendment in a series of tweets – one of her pain points is the new requirement for foreign funds to be routed through an SBI, New Delhi branch to allow for easier monitoring by Govt, and the requirement of Aadhar submission by NGO functionaries. But this again is not surprising, given how NCP has used its hold over opaque and poorly regulated co-operative banks in Maharashtra to benefit its cronies.

The rest of the left-liberal-secular ecosystem has also responded in a similar vein, as explained in this 2-part series on DharmaDispatch.

We at HinduPost maintain that FCRA must ideally be repealed in order to cleanse the foreign-funded ecosystem which aids and abets BreakingIndia forces. But, while the true effect of this FCRA amendment bill if made into law will be seen a couple of years down the line, it potentially constitutes the first meaningful blow to the noxious foreign-funded NGO activist lobby by the Modi government.

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