New Delhi: The Voluntary Action Network India (VANI), an association of development organisations, released a statement Monday saying that the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020, should be referred to a select committee of Parliament.
The FCRA Bill, VANI’s statement said, would be a “death blow to the development relief, scientific research and community support work of the NGO community” as it prohibits collaboration with other Indian organisations.
VANI also said at a time when India is battling a deadly disease like Covid-19, there is much at stake and international collaborations need to be encouraged. So, the enactment of the Bill would be a “model of control over and above the rules, regulations and certification processes, that stifles this important sector”.
The FCRA (Amendment) Bill 2020 was passed by the Lok Sabha Monday evening, with Opposition leaders objecting to it and terming it a means to “crush dissent”.
Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi said the government should not be in a hurry to pass the Bill. “Political dissent will be stopped with this Bill. Do not be in a hurry, send the Bill to the standing committee. Call the NGOs and have a dialogue to find solutions,” he said.
“Due to the 20 per cent cap on administrative expenditure, many NGOs will shut and many people will become jobless,” he said.
‘Bill will make impossible for NGOs to function’
VANI’s statement said the FCRA amendments assume that all NGOs receiving foreign grants are guilty, unless proven otherwise. It said the amendments would make it impossible for NGOs to function and lead to possible harassment of these groups.
“This makes NGOs open to possible harassment via queries which can be raised on almost any activity. This would impede collaborations and any other constructive activity they do,” the statement read.
“This restriction, when added to the existing restrictions prohibiting Indian organisations that win foreign research grants from sub-contracting a foreign institution, runs against the core mission of the government’s desire to strengthen India’s science/research performance.”
The statement also said that once the amendments are enforced, collaborations, even with national NGOs that are compliant with FCRA regulations, will be curtailed, as the Bill talks of no sub-granting.
“These amendments are therefore killing the overall spirit of collaboration,” it said.
Taking about reducing the administrative expenses to 20 per cent from 50 per cent, the statement said that it will act as a “major blow”.
“The term administrative expenses in FCRA rules is defined to include all salaries (except for school teachers, doctors, and field researchers, trainers). This means all the salaries of outreach workers, field staff who support villagers and rural communities are also counted as administrative expenses,” the statement said.
“This amendment will be a major blow to organisations in terms of payment of salaries, professional fees, utility bills, travel and other such expenditure,” it added.
‘Govt should not ignore work done by NGOs’
VANI further said by bringing in this amendment, the government of India was not recognising the diversity of NGOs, which include world-class science organisations.
These amendments, it said, will crush their competitiveness and creativity.
The statement added that these new rules may be intended to control the vast number of NGOs which engage in dubious charitable activities, and that VANI stands with the government of India in its efforts to put down such activities, but it should not ignore the good work done by some organisations.
Another provision in the Bill, asking 20,000 charities to move their FCRA accounts to State Bank of India in Delhi, will be “hugely disruptive”, the network said.
“Many will not be able to operate these accounts properly as the home branch will be in Delhi,” the statement said.
VANI added with limited domestic philanthropy, guidelines that criminalise activities of even those certified as FCRA compliant will lead to the shutting down of thousands of small NGOs that enable good work and are dependent on legal funds obtained internationally. “This will be also endangering the livelihoods of those dependent on them for a vocation,” it stated.