The Modi government has cancelled the registration of nearly 9,000 foreign-funded NGOs that failed to file their annual returns.
In an order, the home ministry said the registration of 8,975 NGOs that had neither filed their annual returns for three years (beginning 2009) nor given any explanation for the delay, stood cancelled with immediate effect. The ministry also directed the district magistrate concerned to “manage the assets” of these NGOs in any manner “considered necessary and in public interest”.
The order, quietly issued on April 6, came days before the Centre’s effort to tighten the grip on prominent NGOs that receive foreign funds like Greenpeace India and the Ford Foundation.
The security establishment has been advocating a hard line on foreign-funded NGOs for years. But it was only after a change of regime at the Centre that the home ministry started the groundwork for the crackdown.
As part of this exercise, the ministry had issued notices through September and October to 10,343 organisations across the country that had not filed their annual returns for 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12.
The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) requires every registered NGO to submit its returns annually, irrespective of whether it received foreign funding in that year.
Only 229 organisations had responded to home ministry’s showcause notice. These responses “are being examined on a case to case basis”, the order by the home ministry’s deputy secretary Mahendra Kumar said. A home ministry official said a decision on how to deal with them was yet to be taken.
As per rules, the ministry can levy a penalty of up to 5% of the foreign funds received, or Rs 50,000 — whichever is higher.
In the previous Manmohan Singh government too, the home ministry had issued notices to over 21,000 NGOs that hadn’t filed their returns from 2006-2009. But it eventually cancelled the registration only in 4,138 cases where letters from the Centre were returned undelivered by postal authorities.