FCRA Bill passed in Lok Sabha, civil society says it will throttle NGOs

Topics FCRA | Lok Sabha | NGOs

One of the amendments seeks to disallow FCRA license holders to transfer money with one another
The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020, was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday, even as civil society organisations asked the government to stop looking suspiciously at them.

 

Amid concerns raised by various Opposition members about the Bill, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said the legislation was not against any religion or NGO.

 

Replying to the discussion on the Bill, the minister asserted that legislation is necessary for an Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) and that it will help curb misuse of foreign funds.

 

The Bill seeks to make it mandatory for office bearers of any non-governmental organisation (NGO) to provide their Aadhaar numbers at the time of registration.

 

Among other provisions, the Bill proposes to enable the Centre to allow an NGO or association to surrender its FCRA certificate, capping administrative expenses at 20 per cent, from the current 50 per cent. It also seeks to mandate civil society organisations to have SBI accounts at a Delhi branch (to be notified later) to receive foreign funds, and prohibits one FCRA-registered society to transfer funds to another which is also recognised by the Act.

 

Biraj Patnaik, executive director at National Foun­dation for India, said: “The FCRA Bill is an emergency era law... It is ironic that the government, which speaks about de-regulation and unshackling of the Indian economy, is amending a bad law to make it worse and reduce the ease of operation for civil society in the country.”

 

In a statement, Voluntary Action Network India, the body representing Indian voluntary development organisations, urged the Centre to refer the Bill to a select or a standing committee of Parliament.

 

It said: “The Bill throttles the spirit of cooperation that had been ushered in earlier this year by the positive role played by development organisations in mitigating the lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic by virtually making it impossible for NGOs to function.” These amendments ass­ume that all NGOs receiving foreign grants are guilty, un­less prove otherwise, it said.

 

One of the amendments seeks to disallow an FCRA licence holder to transfer mo­ney to another. This wi­ll prohibit larger civil soci­eties to transfer funds to smaller ones, a civil society organisation leader said. “Smaller institutions do not have access to donors; they work at the grassroots,” he said. 

 

Another civil society organisation’s leader said: “It is hi­gh time civil society got its due respect; the massive work in the Covid times is visible to all.”

 

On the Bill seeking to cap administrative expenses at 20 per cent, instead of 50 per cent now, the civil society leader cited above said: “Now what are these administrative expenses? As a lot depends on the nature of work and it cannot be uniform for all. You can treat salaries, remuneration, stipend as administrative expenses and this can create trouble for small institutions.”

 

He said if an institution runs awareness programmes, its most expenses go towards salaries, remuneration, and stipend to workers at the grassroots level.

 

THE PROPOSALS

  • The Bill proposes to enable the Centre to allow an association to surrender its FCRA certificate
  • It seeks to make Aadhaar mandatory for registrations
  • It asks NGOs to have SBI accounts at a Delhi branch to receive foreign funds
  • The Bill prohibits one FCRA-registered society to transfer funds to another
  • A body representing NGOs urge the Centre to refer the Bill to a select or a standing committee of Parliament
  • Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai clarifies the Bill is not against any religion or NGO


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