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Home ministry bars foreign funding of JNU, DU, IIT-D, other institutes; crackdown similar to one in 2015

Several prominent universities, education institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been barred from receiving foreign funds by the Centre after they reportedly failed to file their annual returns for five consecutive years.

Around 18,800 organisations feature in the ban-list, including premier institutes like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University,  IIT-Delhi, ICAR, Mumbai University, Pune University, Panjab University, besides the Supreme Court Bar Association.

The registration of these institutions under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) was cancelled by the Union home ministry. No organisation is allowed to receive funds from abroad unless it is registered under the FCRA.

File image of Rajnath Singh. AFP

File image of Rajnath Singh. AFP

"... despite sufficient and adequate notice, it was observed that thousands of NGOs had not uploaded their annual returns for three or more than three years within the stipulated time," a ministry official told The Indian Express.

"However, it is seen that a number of such organisations have not validated their foreign contribution designated accounts, causing problems for the banks to comply with the FCRA provisions that they [banks] report to the Central government within 48 hours of such receipt or utilisation of foreign contribution," the circular read, as per The Hindu.

Other organisations whose FCRA registration were cancelled include Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, Armed Forces Flag Day Fund, School Of Planning & Architecture, Delhi and FICCI Socio Economic Development Foundation.

The Doon School Old Boys Association, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, Delhi, Dr Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, Dr Ram Monohar Lohia International Trust, Coordinating Voluntary Adoption Resource Agency have also been barred from receiving donations from abroad and their FCRA registrations cancelled.

The FCRA registration of the Bombay Diocesan Society, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Karnataka, Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health, Bangalore, Shri Mahatma Gandhi Charitable Trust, Gujarat and Sri Satya Sai Trust were also cancelled by the home ministry.

The action came after the organisations failed to file the returns for five consecutive years, 2010-11 to 2014-15, despite serving repeated notices, a home ministry official said.

Meanwhile, the home ministry has also sent notices to over 1,200 NGOs, asking them to validate the bank accounts in which they receive foreign funding. A ministry circular warned the NGOs to take the required action, as failing to do so would invite punitive action.

The list of such NGOs includes Sri Ramakrishna Math, Ramakrishna Mission, Indore Cancer Foundation Charitable Trust, Coimbatore Christian Charitable Trust, Delhi School Of Social Work Society, Hindu Anath Ashram and Madani Darut Tarbiyat.

Controversial crackdown on NGOs

As per The Hindu report, the Modi government, which has tightened the rules for NGOs, has already cancelled the registration of more than 10,000 of them in the past three years for alleged non-filing of annual returns as mandated in the FCRA.

In addition, licences of more than 1,300 NGOs were not renewed or were closed in the recent past for allegedly violating various provisions of the FCRA. Nearly 6,000 NGOs have been asked to open their accounts in banks having core banking facilities.

The punitive action taken by the ministry against the institutes and the stern warnings issued to the NGOs has revived memories of 2015 when the Rajnath Singh-led home ministry had cracked down on a number of NGOs which have got foreign funding. At the time, the move was marred by controversy and criticism.

In 2015, the government cancelled Greenpeace's registration under FCRA for allegedly working against the country's economic progress.

The decision of the home ministry came five months after it suspended its licence under FCRA for 180 days. It had also frozen its seven bank accounts, alleging that the environmental group was working against the country's economic progress and public interest.

The government had cited an alleged violation of norms by the NGO by opening five accounts to use foreign donations without informing the authorities concerned.

Similarly, when senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Indira Jaising’s NGO, Lawyers Collective (LC) was served a notice suspending its FCRA registration for six months, it invited a lot of controversies.

Jaising launched an attack on the government in a televised interview with NDTV. She termed the move as an "intimidating tactic by the government" to clamp down on her NGO. She pointed out that the first time the notice was mentioned in the press was the day Amit Shah had to appear in court in the Sohrabuddin murder case.

Jaising has actively protested against the decision of the court discharging Shah in the case.

Given the Modi government's history of clamping down on NGOs, the current move, to block foreign funding for education institutes, is bound to raise doubts and spark controversies.

Updated Date: Sep 14, 2017 16:48 PM

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