The government’s “unusual” order revoking the license of Teesta Setalvad’s NGO to receive foreign funds has left little to the imagination.
The home ministry cited the use of foreign funds by NGO Sabrang Trust for purchase of personal items such as ear-buds and sanitary napkins as one of six violations that led to the cancellation of its licence under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
Among them were Setalvad and her husband, Javed Anand, using Rs 12 lakh from the foreign funds to pay for expenses incurred on their personal credit cards. Besides, they also used the trust’s account to pay for “dining in hotels, food takeaways ordered at their residence, and cake and sweets from premium outlets”.
The clincher, it seems, was a list of “purely personal items” bought with foreign funds — such as “ear-buds, wet wipes, nail clippers, sanitary napkins”. This wasn’t one of the declared purpose for which the NGO had received money from abroad and thus was a violation of the FCRA law, the order noted.
A government official was surprised at the graphic details of personal items in the government order, released on Thursday. “It is unusual, to say the least,” said the official, who earlier served at the home ministry.
Though Setalvad’s ‘shopping list’ was made public, the home minister order does not mention when the purchases were made.
Incidentally, another reason cited to justify its decision dates back to 2007. This is when the trust declared receiving Rs 1.5 lakh for maintenance of a place of historical or cultural importance in its annual return. However, the ministry noted that the amount could not be legal as the trust was registered as an educational and social body, and not a cultural one.