The Union government on Thursday put Ford Foundation on its watch list for “national security” and imposed curbs on its funding, a step that agrees with the Gujarat administration’s reproachful report against the US-based international philanthropy.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was instructed to seek the Union home ministry’s approval before funds from the international donor is cleared for NGOs or individuals in India.
The fresh order, issued under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) governing foreign funding of NGOs, came after the home ministry barred Greenpeace India early this month from receiving funds from abroad and seven of its bank accounts were frozen.
It was viewed as part of a crackdown on aid organisations that began after a government intelligence report said local activists were working on the orders of foreign powers to undermine India’s economic growth and tarnish its image globally.
A home ministry official said the latest checks were placed because the government wanted to ensure funds from Ford Foundation were utilised for “bonafide welfare activities” without compromising on concerns of national interest and security.
“The foundation was put on the watch list on the basis of a report submitted by the Gujarat government,” the official added.
Ford Foundation responded by saying it has been and continue to be deeply respectful of the laws of the land. “We are confident in our work and compliance with the law and look forward to the outcome of this inquiry. If the government suggests methods by which we can strengthen and improve our grant-making processes, we will take appropriate steps to incorporate them,” Ford Foundation said in a statement to HT .
The Gujarat government had asked the home ministry in a letter last month to take action against Ford Foundation for “interfering in the internal affairs” of the country and “abetting communal disharmony” through an NGO run by social activist Teesta Setalvad, a prominent voice in the campaign for justice to the 2002 riot victims.
The letter says two NGOs of Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand that Ford Foundation, established in 936 with an aim to promote communal harmony, democratic principles and social justice, has been indulging in covert activities of promoting interests completely contradictory to its goals.
The two trusts received approximately $500,000 from Ford Foundation after the 2002 riots.
“Our probe revealed that … the money raised for the 2002 riot victims was used to carry out a sustained campaign against the Gujarat government in India and abroad. This amounts to interference in the state and also anti-national,” said Rajni Patel, the state’s junior home minister.
The American philanthropy, founded by Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford’s son, came to India on an invite from then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952 — its first step outside the US. It has donated heavily to IIT-Bombay, Jamia Milia Islamia, Wildlife SOS, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Aga Khan Foundation for their programmes over the years.
But the foundation came under scrutiny for its grants to Setalvad and Manish Sisodia’s NGO Kabir, which was in the news during Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal’s anti-corruption movement of 2011.