foreign funding

India's curbs on foreign funds do not conform to international law, says UN representative

The government had revoked the licenses of nearly 14,000 NGOs for violations of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

A United Nations Special Rapporteur has said that India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which regulates foreign funding to certain individuals, associations and companies, does not conform to international law, principles and standards.

Enacted in 2010, the FCRA bars “organisations of a political nature” from accepting foreign contributions, which may further be prohibited when the government “is satisfied that the acceptance of foreign contribution… is likely to accept prejudicially… public interest”.

The law has come under scrutiny since the Modi government came to power in 2014, with a crackdown on Non-Governmental Organisations resulting in nearly 14,000 of them having their licenses to receive foreign funding revoked. Prominent among these NGOs include Greenpeace India and Ford Foundation.

Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, published a legal analysis on the legislation which was submitted to the Union government on April 20.

According to the Special Rapporteur, India’s limitations on access to foreign funding do not meet “the stringent test for allowable restrictions” under international law. He said that FCRA fails all three prongs of the test, which requires that the restrictions be prescribed by law, imposed solely to protect national security or public safety, public order, public health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of others, apart from being “necessary in a democratic society”.

The FCRA, Kiai further argues, does not provide the required precision for clarity and notice. While the Act lists examples of groups that could be defined as having a “political nature”, it does not provide further definitions or examples for the terms “political objectives,” “political activities,” or “political interests.”

“This appears to give the government broad discretionary powers that could be applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner,” the Special Rapporteur said.

The Special Rapporteur also noted that a total ban on access to foreign funding for organisations found to be of a “political nature” or acting against economic or national interest is likely to disproportionately impact certain groups, including those engaged in critical human rights work.

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Modern home design trends that are radically changing living spaces in India

From structure to finishes, modern homes embody lifestyle.

Homes in India are evolving to become works of art as home owners look to express their taste and lifestyle through design. It’s no surprise that global home design platform Houzz saw over a million visitors every month from India, even before their services were locally available. Architects and homeowners are spending enormous time and effort over structural elements as well as interior features, to create beautiful and comfortable living spaces.

Here’s a look at the top trends that are altering and enhancing home spaces in India.

Cantilevers. A cantilever is a rigid structural element like a beam or slab that protrudes horizontally out of the main structure of a building. The cantilevered structure almost seems to float on air. While small balconies of such type have existed for eons, construction technology has now enabled large cantilevers, that can even become large rooms. A cantilever allows for glass facades on multiple sides, bringing in more sunlight and garden views. It works wonderfully to enhance spectacular views especially in hill or seaside homes. The space below the cantilever can be transformed to a semi-covered garden, porch or a sit-out deck. Cantilevers also help conserve ground space, for lawns or backyards, while enabling more built-up area. Cantilevers need to be designed and constructed carefully else the structure could be unstable and lead to floor vibrations.

Butterfly roofs. Roofs don’t need to be flat - in fact roof design can completely alter the size and feel of the space inside. A butterfly roof is a dramatic roof arrangement shaped, as the name suggests, like a butterfly. It is an inverted version of the typical sloping roof - two roof surfaces slope downwards from opposing edges to join around the middle in the shape of a mild V. This creates more height inside the house and allows for high windows which let in more light. On the inside, the sloping ceiling can be covered in wood, aluminium or metal to make it look stylish. The butterfly roof is less common and is sure to add uniqueness to your home. Leading Indian architecture firms, Sameep Padora’s sP+a and Khosla Associates, have used this style to craft some stunning homes and commercial projects. The Butterfly roof was first used by Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect who later designed the city of Chandigarh, in his design of the Maison Errazuriz, a vacation house in Chile in 1930.

Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Butterfly roof and cantilever (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Skylights. Designing a home to allow natural light in is always preferred. However, spaces, surrounding environment and privacy issues don’t always allow for large enough windows. Skylights are essentially windows in the roof, though they can take a variety of forms. A well-positioned skylight can fill a room with natural light and make a huge difference to small rooms as well as large living areas. However, skylights must be intelligently designed to suit the climate and the room. Skylights facing north, if on a sloping roof, will bring in soft light, while a skylight on a flat roof will bring in sharp glare in the afternoons. In the Indian climate, a skylight will definitely reduce the need for artificial lighting but could also increase the need for air-conditioning during the warm months. Apart from this cleaning a skylight requires some effort. Nevertheless, a skylight is a very stylish addition to a home, and one that has huge practical value.

Staircases. Staircases are no longer just functional. In modern houses, staircases are being designed as aesthetic elements in themselves, sometimes even taking the centre-stage. While the form and material depend significantly on practical considerations, there are several trendy options. Floating staircases are hugely popular in modern, minimalist homes and add lightness to a normally heavy structure. Materials like glass, wood, metal and even coloured acrylic are being used in staircases. Additionally, spaces under staircases are being creatively used for storage or home accents.

Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)
Floating staircase (Image credit: Design Milk on Flickr.com)

Exposed Brick Walls. Brickwork is traditionally covered with plaster and painted. However, ‘exposed’ bricks, that is un-plastered masonry, is becoming popular in homes, restaurants and cafes. It adds a rustic and earthy feel. Exposed brick surfaces can be used in home interiors, on select walls or throughout, as well as exteriors. Exposed bricks need to be treated to be moisture proof. They are also prone to gathering dust and mould, making regular cleaning a must.

Cement work. Don’t underestimate cement and concrete when it comes to design potential. Exposed concrete interiors, like exposed brick, are becoming very popular. The design philosophy is ‘Less is more’ - the structure is simplistic and pops of colour are added through furniture and soft furnishings.

Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)
Exposed concrete wall (Image Credit: Getty Images)

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