Govt takes Ford Foundation off watch list: report

The Indian government has quietly taken US non-profit Ford Foundation off its watch list, The Hindu newspaper reported on Friday.

The move comes only days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to the US to meet with President Barack Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington later this month.

The Home Ministry has already issued orders to take the Foundation off the so-called ‘prior permission’ list. What this means is that banks will no longer have to seek permission from the Finance Ministry before processing foreign fund flows from the US-based Foundation to any Indian bank account. The Finance Ministry, the newspaper reported, has already written to the Reserve Bank of India on March 16 to remove the non-profit from the watch list.

Based on a report by the Gujarat government last year, the Ministry had put Ford Foundation on the watch list, citing “national security”.

According to the Gujarat government report, the non-profit funded the “anti-India” activities of Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust run by activist Teesta Setalvad who has been fighting the government on behalf of minority community victims of the 2002 communal riots in that state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the state at the time.

Ford Foundation in 2015 complied with the government’s condition to register itself under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) which allows it to receive foreign funding, the newspaper said, since until then it had been registered as an NGO or any other body.

It was finally registered as a branch office by the Reserve Bank of India in December 2015. 

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