The Lok Sabha on Monday passed amendments to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act that makes Aadhaar mandatory for all office bearers of non-governmental organisations that seek foreign contributions. It was passed through a voice vote. The proposed law will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha and, if passed, become a legislation after the president’s assent.
The draft law also seeks to prohibit government servants from receiving foreign funds. The bill aims to strengthen the Act because of several organisations’ “outright misappropriation or mis-utilisation” of the funds, which has led to the government cancelling 19,000 such registrations in the past few years.
The FCRA mandates that those receiving foreign contribution must use it only for the reason for which the contribution has been received. However, the bill reduces this limit to 20% from 50%.
The draft legislation also seeks to bar sub-granting or transfer of funds to another individual, association, or a registered firm. Under the FCRA, the central government may suspend the registration for a maximum period of 180 days. The Bill adds that this suspension may be extended up to 180 more days.
Under the draft law, NGOs may receive foreign funds only in designated FCRA accounts in a State Bank of India branch in New Delhi. However, they may open one or more utilisation accounts in any banks of their choice. The bank’s branch would then report to the home ministry the prescribed amount of foreign remittance, the sources and manner in which it was received and other particulars.
During the discussion on the draft law, Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule questioned the decision to make Aadhaar mandatory and asked the reason for the focus on SBI, Delhi. “I request the central government to stop bulldozing people who do good work,” she said. “There may be a bad apple among the NGOs, but there are a hundred others doing good work.”
Congress leader Anto Antony, who was one of the first to speak on the draft legislation, called the bill “another exotic adventure”. He also accused the Centre of attempting to targeting minority communities.
Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said that high-handed Hindu revivalism was this government’s goal and expressed his party’s disapproval for the bill. Bahujan Samaj Party leader Ritesh Pandey claimed that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party may try to curb dissent through the draft legislation. He also raised concerns over the proposal to extend the suspension period.
Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party leader Bellana Chandra Sekhar supported the bill and said it was the Centre’s step towards transparency. Shiv Sena MP Shrirang Appa Barne also voiced his support for the draft law and claimed foreign funds were being received in many parts of the world for religious conversions, according to The Hindu.