The Centre has put restrictions on funding for 10 international non-governmental organisations working on child rights, climate change and environmental projects, The Hindu reported on Monday.
The newspaper cited a note that the Reserve Bank of India sent to all banks in the country, saying that the Centre had asked for several foreign organisations to be put on the “Prior Reference Category” list.
Being placed on the list implies that “as and when the foreign donor wants to transfer the money to some recipient association in India, the same needs prior clearance of Ministry of Home Affairs”.
Over 80 international agencies are on the list, according to the newspaper. These include three US-based NGOs, two from Australia, the European Climate Foundation, three foundations from the United Kingdom, and one in the United Arab Emirates.
“The RBI has instructed that any fund flow from the (specified) donor agencies to any NGO/Voluntary organisation/ persons in India should be brought to the Ministry of Home Affairs so that the funds are allowed to be credited to the recipients only after clearance/ prior permission,” the RBI note accessed by The Hindu said.
The Indian government had in September 2020 made certain amendments to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which governs the utilisation of foreign donations received by NGOs in the country.
The provisions had made Aadhaar mandatory for all office bearers of non-governmental organisations that seek foreign contributions. Election candidates, government servants, members of any legislature and political parties were prohibited from accepting foreign funding.
The new rules require any organisation that wants to register itself under the FCRA to have existed for at least three years and to have spent a minimum of Rs 15 lakh on its core activities during the last three financial years for the benefit of the society.
The NGOs are also required to submit commitment letter from their donors, specifying the amount of foreign contributions and the purpose for which they are proposed to be given.
International organisations had expressed concern over the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to “stifle the voices” of activists and non-governmental organisations in India.
Unidentified officials told The Hindu that in the past too, banks had been sent notices with warnings about NGOs banned from distributing or receiving foreign donations.
The newspaper asked an official why restrictions were placed on environmental NGOs even as India often spoke about about its commitment towards combating climate change.
The official replied: “Global pressures are intensifying on India to raise the Nationally Determined Contributions. In order to create noise in the media, several pro-climate NGOs are focusing on advocacy against coal, which is considered a violation of FCRA provisions.”