There was furore in December 2021, when the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration was cancelled for Missionaries of Charity (MoC). However the MoC, was just one of around 911 Christian organisations removed from the FCRA list. On the whole around 6,000 organisations have been taken off the list by the home ministry. According to the dashboard, as on January 1, only 16,829 organisations are currently registered under FCRA in India.
Six thousand organisations who have been taken off the list of registered organisations also include Oxfam India, Common Cause, Jamia Millia Islamia, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), Kolkata-based Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute and the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC).
According to a report in Hindustan Times, “5,789 organisations were taken out of the FCRA because they didn’t apply for renewal of licence, mandatory for receiving foreign funding, while licences of 179 organisations were cancelled in violation of the act after scrutinising their documents.” According to a senior MHA official, quoted anonymously in the report, “As on January 1, the FCRA registration of total 16,829 organisations were “alive or active”, which means they are eligible to receive funds from abroad and use them for specified purposes.”
Other prominent organisations which, according to the home ministry’s records, no longer hold a FCRA registration are: Hamdard Education Society, Indian Institute of Technology (Hauz Khas), Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH), Delhi College of Engineering, Goa Football Association, Press Institute of India, The Lepra India Trust and Indian Institute of Management (Calcutta), Medical Council of India, Emmanuel Hospital Association, which runs over a dozen hospitals across India, Tuberculosis Association of India, Vishwa Dharamayatan, Maharishi Ayurveda Pratishthan, National Federation of Fishermen’s Cooperatives Ltd, Bhartiya Sanskriti Parishad, DAV College Trust and Management Society, Godrej Memorial Trust etc.
According to a report in the Economic Times, Sirajuddin Qureshi, chairman of the All India Islamic Cultural Centre, said that it was for the “first time in 40 years that the institute has faced a rejection of FCRA over a "procedural lapse". They generally give us a warning...We sit down with our forms again and see what went wrong."
An organisation named, Legal Rights Observatory, had reportedly written to the home ministry claiming that Oxfam India, by raising the issue of child labour in the Assam tea industry was "portraying the wrong image of India and hurting its economic prospects." Vinay Joshi, an ‘activist’ who has been petitioning against Christian NGOs, was quoted by ET as claiming “the NGO also sent complaints against 350 NGOs, mostly Christian organisations that have made it to the list. For instance, we flagged how some diocese such as in Nellore have long standing agreements with foreign countries on proselytisation and do work that is different from what is mentioned in the directive in their application."
Oxfam India reminds gov’t how it listened to PM seeking NGOs’ help during the Covid-19 pandemic
Oxfam India’s issued a detailed statement on the issue stating that its “humanitarian work of setting up oxygen plants, delivering lifesaving equipment to hospitals and strengthening health workers will now be severely affected” after Government of India’s decision to refuse renewal of Oxfam India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration. It stated that the organisation’s humanitarian and social work was ongoing “in 16 states across the country. This includes setting up of oxygen plants, providing lifesaving medical and diagnostic equipment such as oxygen cylinders and ventilators and delivery of food to the most vulnerable communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India said, during the Covid-19 pandemic, “Oxfam India joined hands with health departments, district administrations and ASHA workers across the nation to provide life-saving equipment and support. We are also working with various state governments to ensure bridging of the learning gap in school education due to Covid-19. We have worked to enhance women's livelihood and worked with forest dwellers to ensure that they are not denied their rights” and that the decision will “severely hamper these collaborations which were providing relief to those who needed it the most during times of crisis.” He further said, “As India stares at a possible third wave due to the Omicron variant, the restrictions on accessing funds will hamper our efforts to provide support in strengthening the public healthcare system.”
Oxfam India reminded the government that since March 2020 it “was at the forefront whenever Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon NGOs and civil society to join the fight against Covid-19 by helping the government to strengthen health services and accelerate pace of vaccination drive. The Supreme Court also acknowledged the contribution of NGOs in providing relief during the pandemic.”
Oxfam India became a fully Indian organisation in 2008 with prominent citizens of India as its board members, but Oxfam had been working in India since 1951 when it came to India to provide famine relief in Bihar. Amitabh Behar stated that Oxfam India will “reach out to the MHA and will urge them to lift the funding restrictions to ensure vulnerable communities keep receiving the support they need at this critical time of pandemic.”
FCRA licences cancelled, but no clarity on reasons why?
While the Home Ministry has stated "adverse inputs" to refuse renewal of a licence for Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, there is no further clarity on what these inputs were? Or for that matter what are the reasons the FCRA licences were cancelled for the over 900 other Christian NGOs, many of who run educational and health facilities across India. According to a report in NDTV many licences were due to expire between September 29, 2020, and December 31, 2021, and 12,989 had applied for renewal, the remaining lapsed.
Meanwhile applications of 179 others, including Mother Teresa's charity, were rejected, and scrutiny of the other applications is ongoing, reported NDTV. Refusing FCRA clearance is being interpreted by many as the government’s way of “suppressing organisations' ' who may not be aligned with the political narrative. Interestingly the list reportedly included some “right-wing groups doing charity and anti-conversion drives.”