The Union home ministry has taken off Ford Foundation from its watch list under which any flow of funds from the US-based international donor agency, any Indian non-governmental organisation (NGO) or person had to be vetted by the ministry before being disbursed to the recipient.
The decision of the home ministry has come prior to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US.
“It has been decided to remove Ford Foundation, USA from the prior reference category with immediate effect. Now any fund flow from Ford Foundation to any person, NGO or organisation in India need not to be referred for clearance to this ministry,” the home ministry’s letter to the Reserve Bank India said asking it to inform all banks about the decision.
In April last year, the ministry had put the agency on its watch-list for funding activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGOs, saying they didn’t use the funds provided by the foundation for the stated purpose in violation of the foreign contribution regulation act.
Setalvad, a vocal critic of PM Modi, denied the charge but the home ministry asked the CBI to probe further. Ford Foundation also took up the matter with the home ministry.
The ministry asked the foundation to get itself registered under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema) that governs foreign exchange transactions in the country.
According to ministry officials, all liaison offices of international donor agencies need to register under Fema. Since the foundation had not done so, ever since it started working in India from 1952 onwards, it was asked to apply for registration.
In an earlier statement, the foundation had said it had submitted an application for registration under applicable Indian law on the direction of the government.
The response of Ford Foundation on the decision of the government is awaited.