Cancellation of registrations of 1000+ NGOs in AP is a welcome move

The Foreign Contribution (Regulatory) Act (FCRA) provides a mechanism for Organizations to receive foreign funds for various activities which are broadly classified into Educational, Religious, Economic, Social and so forth.

Although both Government and Non-Government Organizations can register themselves with the Ministry of Home Affairs so as to be eligible to receive foreign funds, the FCRA landscape is overwhelmingly dominated by NGOs. Among these, a huge chunk of NGOs receives FCRA funding for purely religious purposes. In our estimate, around 40 per cent of the funding each year is received by Organizations which declare themselves as Religious.

However, a very large number of NGOs which declare themselves as working on social causes may actually be receiving funds from foreign organizations which are motivated by a religious cause. As illustrative examples, one can see the following FC6 returns: 123, and 4.

This article examines a recent order by the FCRA Wing of Foreigners Division in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The order can be accessed here.

Out of the 42,000 Organizations which have been registered under FCRA, more than 10,000 had not filed the mandatory financial returns (called FC-6 form) for the years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12, as on October 1, 2014. This is inexplicable given that the law mandates that the NGO file the return, even if it did not receive any foreign funds in a particular year.

Thus, the FCRA Wing issued notices to all these Organizations in the first week of October 2014 and asked them to provide reasons as to why their registrations should not be cancelled. The erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh (comprised currently of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) had the largest number of non-filing Organizations: 1441.

Following this, the FCRA Wing released a Cancellation order, dated 3 March, 2015 which mentions that letters to 510 Organizations returned back to the sender: undelivered. Six hundred and thirty two Organizations presumably received the letter from MHA, but preferred not to reply within the stipulated time.

The MHA further states that two hundred and ninety nine organizations have replied and these are being studied further. The FCRA Wing issued Cancellation orders for the 1142 Organizations of Andhra Pradesh who were in clear violation of the Law, for the past several years.

Our observations:

  • The cancellation order with details of all the cancelled Organizations of Andhra Pradesh was posted on the website of FCRA, likely on 13 March, 2015. This act of the Ministry to communicate directly with the citizens of India, without giving an (unjustified) preference to established information middle-men/women (so-called mainstream media)is singularly commendable. The news was carried by a few newspapers on their 14 March, 2015 editions. However, it was possible for social media to become aware of this development much earlier, thanks to MHA’s thoughtful action.
  • This cancellation order pertains to NGOs in Andhra Pradesh alone. Thus, one can expect to see similar orders for NGOs in other States in the days to come.
  • The following question may be pondered over: if an NGO did not file the FC-6 return for 2009-10 within the stipulated period (say, in the year 2010, ideally), why are we even discussing this matter in early 2015? Who in their right mind would have thought that the services of the non-compliant NGO were deemed to be necessary for the populace of India?
  • The predominant nature of money coming via FCRA into our nation has been adequately demonstrated on IndiaFacts and on my blog. Thus, it requires no reiteration. Our analyses have been confined to those 21,000+ NGOs which have filed FC-6 returns each year. Much of the money coming in has been for Evangelical and anti-developmental purposes. It is a sobering thought that if such a long-term damage to our society can be caused by NGOs who diligently file annual returns, what to make of the work (dark matter) that the non-filing NGOs were involved in? A known Unknown, certainly, to paraphrase Don Rumsfeld.
  • The Union Government, Ministers, Officers and others of the FCRA Wing need to be appreciated for their diligent work, sticking clearly to the rule book. They now have an unenviable task ahead to handle the’ Known Known’.