Modi govt restricts funding for 10 green, child labour NGOs
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (ANI Photo)
THE Indian government has made a move to restrict the funding for a group of 10 American, Australian and European non-government organisations (NGOs) that deal with environmental, climate change and child labour issues.
According to Indian daily The Hindu, an internal note of India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, dated July 1, 2021, said the government had specified a number of foreign entities to be placed on the “Prior Reference Category” (PRC list) using the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) 2010, that was tightened in September last year to make both banks and chartered accountants accountable for unauthorised funds that arrive. The note was sent to all banks.
The NGOs include the European Climate Foundation, three US-based NGOs — the Omidyar Network International, Humanity United and Stardust foundation, two Australia-based NGOs — Walk Free Foundation and Minderoo Foundation, and the UK-based Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Freedom fund and Laudes Foundation besides the UK/ UAE-based Legatum Fund. They add to more than 80 international voluntary agencies now on the government’s PRC list.
“The RBI has instructed that any fund flow from the (specified) donor agencies to any NGO/Voluntary organisation/ persons in India should be brought to the Ministry of Home Affairs so that the funds are allowed to be credited to the recipients only after clearance/ prior permission from the MHA’s Foreigners Division of the FCRA wing,” the notice sent out recently by a private bank to its branches said, The Hindu report added.
All the NGOs on the latest list work on climate change and environmental projects and/or child rights and slavery projects, areas where the Indian government has been sensitive to criticism from the international community in the past.
‘Global pressure intensifying on India’
When the daily asked government sources the reason for listing so many environmental NGOs on the list when the government has stressed on its international commitment on fighting climate change, an official said that despite New Delhi complying with the Paris climate agreement, “global pressures are intensifying on India to raise the Nationally Determined Contributions”.
“In order to create noise in the media, several pro-climate NGOs are focusing on advocacy against coal, which is considered a violation of FCRA provisions,” the official added.
In 2017, India’s ministry of home affairs had strongly objected to the International Labour Organisation’s Global Slavery Index, “questioning the credibility data” which had ranked India 53rd among 167 countries where “modern slavery” was prevalent and as the nation with most number of people engaged in forced labour, according to a reply given in the parliament.
The index is part of the Walk Free Foundation’s annual survey which is used by other NGOs working in the same area.
According to the home ministry’s responses in the parliament, the Indian government cancelled the FCRA licenses of more than 6,600 NGOs and suspended those of about 264. Among those which have been either placed on the PRC list or had to downsize or even shut down their India operations due to FCRA action by the government in the last few years are Greenpeace International, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Compassion International, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, National Endowment for Democracy and Open Society Foundation.
One NGO from the UK — Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative — has dragged the Indian government to court for suspending its FCRA license and won temporary relief in the Delhi high court, allowing it to access 25 per cent of its funds. A final order is expected in October, the daily added.