Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai (file photo) | Photo: ANI
Text Size:

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha Monday passed the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2020, amid objections from the Opposition on various clauses introduced by the Narendra Modi government.

Replying to the debate in the lower house of Parliament, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai said the Bill was “not against NGOs or an attack against a religion or community, and it will not stop foreign contribution”.

The Bill, Rai said, was meant to “bring in transparency” and “stop misuse of foreign contributions by people”.

He said the FCRA amendment is required for an Atmanirbhar Bharat, is in the interest of national security, and aims to ensure that foreign funds are spent in the right direction.

“FCRA is a national & internal security law to ensure that foreign funds don’t affect national interests. Here, transparency is the main aim,” Rai said.

The FCRA Bill seeks to prohibit ‘public servants’ from receiving any foreign funding, and also proposes to reduce the use of foreign funds to meet administrative costs by NGOs to 20 per cent from the existing 50 per cent.


Also read: Modi govt tables FCRA amendments, opposition & NGOs call it fatal blow to civil society work


‘Will keep a check on donations’

Responding to NCP MP Supriya Sule’s question on why did the government want to limit the administrative expenses to 20 per cent, and how it reached this “magic figure”, Rai said: “If an NGO meant for civil work has to spend 50 per cent of the received contribution on itself, then what good work can it be expected to do?”

Rai even accused NGOs of spending funds on their family members. He said the government has found many instances where directors of NGOs had hired their family members as karamcharis (workers) and were paying them salaries.

“If one is seen buying big cars, installing 3-4 air conditioners, all in the name of administrative expense, then what good work are they really doing for the society? This amendment is to ensure that these things remain under check,” Rai said.


Also read: UPA made Indira’s draconian FCRA tougher, Modi govt’s amendments will now make it worse


Aadhaar to be mandatory

The Opposition also raised concerns over government’s proposal to make Aadhaar a mandatory identification document for all office-bearers, directors and other key functionaries of NGOs or associations eligible to receive foreign donations, despite the Supreme Court’s direction that it was not a mandatory document.

Trinamool Congress’ Saugata Roy said the FCRA Bill is another example of the Union home ministry acting as ‘Big Brother’ and watching over the whole country to see who is getting funds.

“This Bill is meant to tighten screws on those organisations that receive funds from abroad,” Roy said.

“While the Supreme Court has said that Aadhaar Card is not compulsory and is a document for identification for receiving targeted public distribution money, why should you make Aadhaar card compulsory if not to keep a better control over the people?” he asked.

Roy further said that “high-handed Hindu revivalism” is this government’s credo, and that there is no need for this Bill.

Replying to Roy’s remark, MoS Rai said while the Supreme Court has said Aadhaar is not compulsory for identification, it is a necessity in certain scenarios, like this one.

Aadhaar, Rai said, is a significant proof of identification.

“Supreme Court has said that in areas where Aadhaar card may be a requirement or seems necessary, then a law can be brought to make it mandatory. Aadhaar is a proof of identity and if an NGO cannot show its identity, then that means it is suspicious,” Rai said.


Also read: Govt cancelled FCRA registration of 1,807 NGOs in 2019 for violating laws


Accounts to be opened in SBI

During the debate, BJP MP Satyapal Singh said for “proper monitoring of funds”, Aadhaar cards of all officer bearers, directors, etc, will be taken and they will be allowed to receive money only in a State Bank of India account in Delhi.

Minister Rai said although all foreign contribution bank accounts will have to be opened in SBI, other accounts from which money will be utilised can be opened in any village.

He, however, did not clarify if the mandatory SBI account, where all foreign contributions will be received, should be in Delhi or not.

Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs said the primary account will be in Delhi and organisations can then transfer the amount from that account to other accounts in their villages and towns.

Asked about the need to freeze accounts of NGOs, Rai said, “If we do not freeze bank accounts of NGOs flouting norms, how will malpractices be investigated? This is to ensure FCRA is not violated.”

On including public servants under list of entities not exempted to receive foreign funds, Rai said, “this was necessary for people who were drawing money from sate funds such as court-appointed officers.”

Opposition members, including NCP’s Sule, the government’s decision on all accounts being in SBI was emblematic of an undeclared “emergency”.


Also read: The FCRA violation case behind CBI raids on Indira Jaising, Anand Grover and their NGO


‘FCRA Bill not meant to threaten political opponents’

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury questioned the government on allowing foreign donations for the PM-CARES fund, but prohibiting NGOs from receiving any funds for educational and charitable purposes through this amendment.

“There is a political agenda behind it. PM Modi said in 2016 that NGOs are conspiring against us to remove us from power. Your intention is to exempt PM-CARES from FCRA,” Chowdhury said.

Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra called the Bill a “hypocrisy”.

“Why go after small fry? You allowed political parties to receive foreign funds from Indian-registered foreign companies through electoral bonds by retrospectively repealing a 1976 law,” she said.

Opposition parties also said the Bill was meant to threaten political opponents.

Responding to their claims, Rai said, “This is not to threaten political opponents. Foreign contribution is a donation, not personal property.”

“In 2012, the licences of more than 42,000 NGOs were cancelled. After this amendment is passed, there will be transparency. ‘Modi ji Modi ji hain, kudrishti walon ka naash ho jayega!‘ (Modi is Modi, those with evil eye will be finished).”


Also read: Suspect all, fix all? Is that the motto of our new ‘National Suspicion State’?


 

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

VIEW COMMENTS

5 COMMENTS

  1. This government is gutless, long on talk and short on action. What happened to the case of misuse of foreign funds by Teesta Setalwad for liquor, perfume and fashion accessories? Was she prosecuted and convicted? Not a chance. This government keeps making harsher laws, with no will to enforce it. I am sorry that I have voted for this yello belly government.

  2. This is a welcome step.

    It is important to bring breaking India forces under the scanner a foreign funding strike if you may call.

    In fact it should be named Teesta/Arfa par funding strike.

    Their contribution to breaking India forces is exemplary and if unchecked will create havoc in India.

  3. Yeah right!! Foreign money received by NGOs is to be regulated.. But that received by political parties is not! How does that even make sense!!

Comments are closed.