Non-governmental organisation Oxfam India has told the Delhi High Court that its “operations have virtually been forced to halt entirely” after the Union home ministry refused to renew its Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act licence, The Indian Express reported on Thursday. FCRA registration is mandatory for any non-profit organisation in India to receive funds from abroad.

Oxfam India was among 5,932 non-government organisations whose registrations under the Act had ceased on January 1, 2022, either because they did not apply for renewal or the home ministry refused to sanction their applications for renewal. Oxfam India is in the latter category.

Oxfam India moved the High Court against the pendency of its renewal application and the Centre was instructed in November 2022 to decide on its plea within six weeks. In December 2022, the home ministry rejected the application and denied the renewal of Oxfam India’s FCRA registration. Oxfam India continues to seek recourse in the High Court.

In an affidavit filed last week, the organisation said that three out of seven development projects it was working on, as recently as December 2023, have had to be terminated due to lack of funds. The others will be terminated soon.

“With the expected completion of termination of remaining projects by January 20, 2024, the petitioner will not have any projects in operation,” the affidavit said. “This means that the petitioner will be without any work on the ground.”

Oxfam India is currently working with only 15 staff members, as against the 251 staffers it had in December 2021. By March, its strength will be down to four employees.

The organisation is also without a chief executive officer, a senior management team or a middle management team. In the past two years, it has shuttered all its Indian offices except in Delhi, though that is also in the “process of closure due to a lack of available funds”, the affidavit said.

“Petitioner was constrained to spend Rs 7.04 crore for the financial year 2022-23 from their reserves,” said the affidavit. “In financial year 2023-24 till November 2023, the petitioner has spent Rs 3.36 crore from the reserves… depleted reserves currently stand at Rs 1.54 crore.”

Oxfam India’s remaining funds will be used to settle leave encashments and gratuity payments of staff members who will soon exit the company.

The organisation said that it would be unable to pay salaries and social security benefits to its remaining staff members and rent for the warehouses that store crucial relief material if its foreign funding licence is not renewed. The High Court will hear the matter next on February 7.

Oxfam India is also being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation. In April, the law enforcement agency registered a first information report against Oxfam India based on a complaint filed by the Ministry of Home Affairs Director (Foreigners-II Division) Jeetendar Chadha.

Also read: FCRA licence crackdown has plunged India’s non-profit sector into a crisis