More than 11,000 non-government organisations have lost their foreign funding registration because they did not apply for renewal of licence by June-end, the home ministry announced.
The Centre’s decision brings down the number of not-for-profit organisations permitted to receive foreign funding to 20,500, less than half of what it was two years ago when 42,500 were registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) 2010.
The home ministry said it had cancelled FCRA registration of 10,000 organisations in 2015 because they did not file their annual returns for three years in a row. Many of these organisations were defunct or did not want the FCRA registration in any case.
In a notice put on its website late on Thursday, the ministry listed 11,319 organisations that had not applied for renewal of registration by the June 30 deadline this year. “Their validity of registration is deemed expired from 1 November 2016,” it said.
Among those in this list are about 50 orphanages, hundreds of schools and institutions such as the Indian Statistical Institute and reputed NGOs like the Salaam Baalak Trust that works for street children.
The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 — it replaced a 1976 law by the same name — ended the system of permanent registration, and required NGOs to seek renewal of their licence every five years. The first five-year term ended in September this year.
The Home Ministry had extended their registration by a month, to October-end, as it had not been able to complete the formalities. This led Voluntary Action Network India (VANI), the umbrella organisation for the NGO sector, to urge the Centre to give NGOs more time.
This was the first time that several NGOs were going to seek renewal and may have slipped on the deadline.
Harsh Jaitli, VANI’s chief executive officer, said the lower number of FCRA NGOs also reflected the declining foreign contribution into developmental organisations.
“People are finding it extremely difficult to follow this law,” he told HT, adding that “opaqueness in decision-making” was only making it tougher.
For instance, Jaitli said, the home ministry “closed” about 1700 renewal requests this week — “in many cases without giving any justification”. The law does not define what closing an application is. “You can either accept an application or reject it,” he said.
But civil society groups that have often opposed government plans are unlikely to get any political support.
In its original form, the FCRA was enacted to restrict flow of foreign funds to civil society groups during the 1975-77 Emergency, but successive governments found it useful to keep the groups under control.
Parliament had passed a stringent version of the FCRA in 2010, with the Congress-led UPA government insisting that NGOs that rely on foreign funds had to be prepared for greater scrutiny.