A government crackdown last year on foreign funded NGOs has sparked a showdown in the Union home ministry with a senior official alleging his superior forced him to favour the United States-based donor agency, Ford Foundation.
Anand Joshi – an undersecretary in the home ministry’s foreigner division -- went missing from his Ghaziabad residence on Wednesday, alleging he was being harassed.
“While serving my nation, I probably made too many enemies,” he said in a letter to his wife.
A day ago, Joshi told HT his superior -- additional secretary BK Prasad – forced him to take Ford Foundation off a government watch list that stipulated any funds from the US agency will be vetted by the home ministry before being disbursed.
Joshi is being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation for allegedly arbitrarily sending notices to over 50 NGOs claiming violation of funding norms. He was to appear before the probe agency on Wednesday.
Such notices are issued to NGOs who violate foreign funding norms. But the crackdown has been criticised in recent years by activists, who say the government is trying to muzzle criticism of its policies in the industrial and environmental sectors.
Last April, the home ministry put Ford Foundation on the prior permissions category under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) that governs foreign funding of NGOs.
Under the category, the Reserve Bank of India would need home ministry approval before disbursing funds sent by the US donor agency.
But in March this year, the government took Ford Foundation off the list after the agency agreed to be registered under the Foreign Exchange Management Act that governs flow of foreign exchange.
Joshi said he was pressurised by Prasad to remove Ford Foundation from the category. He asked why the agency was not asked to register under the more stringent under the Foreign Contribution Registration Act (FCRA) that governs NGO funding.
“I raised questions about it in writing. I am being hounded for doing my duty,” Joshi said on Tuesday.
Prasad told HT that whatever the under secretary is saying is “rubbish” and “baseless”.
“The CBI is probing the case and I am sure the truth will come out,” Prasad added.
Joshi also denied seeking any bribe from any NGO.
“Some insignificant files may have recovered from house but they were irrelevant. I can explain recovery of money from house as well. I am an honest person who is being victimised for not toeing the line of my superior,” said Joshi.
Joshi’s wife Minakshi said her husband was last seen at 2am.
In the Hindi letter addressing his wife, Joshi said, “I have been going through extremely high mental harassment for the past few months but now the situation has got out of hand...At this moment I need peace and that is not possible here. I am leaving home and please do not look for me.”
Senior home ministry official said Joshi came under the radar after he issued more 50 notices to NGOs last November.
He was transferred out of the foreigners division in December and later a file with regard to activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGOs -- which are being probed for violation of funding norms -- was recovered at his instance and a departmental inquiry initiated against him.