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NGO funding from foreign sources declined by half after government crackdown

Civil society organisations in Delhi came together to critique the implementation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

Foreign funding to Indian non-governmental organisations declined by half, from Rs 13,600 crore recorded in 2013-'14 to just Rs 7,600 crore in 2014-'15, according to an estimate by a coalition of more than 700 civil society organisations.

At an event in New Delhi on Friday to clarify their position on the implications of the government’s amendments to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, the groups claimed that the law was being used to intimidate potential dissidents.

“While there is a global recognition that the major strength and hope of India lie in its vibrant network of civil society organisation, we are today witnessing a concerted attempt being made by the state to use the FCRA law to erode the credibility of leading and highly reputed NGOs,” said Mathew Cherian, of Help Age International and chairperson of Voluntary Action Network India.

Anand Grover, a member of the Lawyers' Collective, the latest civil society organisation to have been targeted by the government crackdown, pointed out that foreign direct investment to business corporations was far higher than funds received through the act, which was passed in 1976 during the Emergency.

In April 2015, the government cancelled the registrations of almost 9,000 organisations for not having filed their returns. But in the finance bill of 2015, the government retrospectively amended the act to allow political parties to receive funds from Indian subsidiaries of foreign companies.

The Delhi High Court had in 2014 found that the Bhartiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress had violated the act by receiving funding from two subsidiaries of Vedanta.

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