The Union government notified on Monday new foreign funding rules asking non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to affirm every year that the money they receive from abroad is not likely to “prejudicially” affect the security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the country.
The tweaks to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Rules comes after the Intelligence Bureau last year claimed that some foreign-funded NGOs were harming the economic interests of the country.
Additionally, the government also brought the entire process of registration of NGOs for receiving foreign funding online.
“Earlier there was simple declaration that NGOs will adhere to all provision of the act governing foreign contribution at the time of registration of any NGO. But now it will be an annual affirmation at the time of filing return and the terms used in it are very vague and broad,” said Venkatesh Nayak, coordinator of Access to Information programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).
Amended rules say NGOs will have to affirm that any acceptance of foreign funding is not likely to affect prejudicially the sovereignty and integrity of India, public interest, freedom or fairness of elections, friendly relations with a foreign state, harmony between religious, social or linguistic groups.
Except for the clause with regard to affecting the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the country, rest of the clauses have been part of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) that governs foreign funding. “If any NGOs violated them, their registration could have been taken back. But now it is going to be annual undertaking with the submission of return of utilisation of foreign funds. We will review them to see whether they require to be challenged in court,” said Nayak.
The centre also launched the revamped website of the FCRA wing of the foreigners division of its ministry, during which home minister Rajnath Singh said he hoped the new initiative will offer applicants the seamless services of FCRA with adequate ease and facilitation.
Under the new online system, all kinds of application forms such as those for registration, renewal, annual returns can now be filled online and documents can be uploaded. The site will also accept web payments of requisite fees.
NGOs additionally will have to put information with regard to foreign funding received and utilised on their website every three months. The ministry will also answer all queries of NGOs through emails.