Funds That NGO’s get

Dubious organisations flourish while genuine ones struggle to survive
Source : Pioneer

Last week, the media reported that the bank accounts of 30 non-Government organisations had been frozen. Seventy NGOs had been barred from getting foreign funds. This information was provided by Minister of State for Home M Ramachandran in a written reply in the Lok Sabha. He also revealed that 35 NGOs had been placed in the ‘prior permission’ category,24 cases referred to the CBI and seven to State police. This was in response to a question whether the Government had received complaints about some organisations using foreign funds against the nation’s interests. To those who have closely been following reports of hawala transactions, and terror and subversion funding being routed through myriad NGOs and shell companies, this number may appear too meagre to believe.

There are numerous foreign-funded NGOs purportedly engaged in welfare work and there are other altruistic NGOs that raise finances locally. The former are in the news for the wrong reasons after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh averred that activists’ protests against the Kudankulam nuclear project were being financed by sources in the United States and the Scandinavian countries. The comment provoked BJP national secretary P Muralidhar Rao to demand that the Centre release a white paper on such funding being used against national interests. The Union Home Ministry’s annual report on foreign contributions has also been recently cited to support the charge that insurgency in tribal areas in the North-eastern States, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh is being fuelled by funds from abroad.

The Home Ministry’s report apparently states that 2,325 foreign-funded NGOs are registered in Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, which are hotbeds of Maoist violence. Between 2009 and 2010, these NGOs received an estimated `600 crore. In the North-east, 516 NGOs received `251 crore; 465 NGOs in Jharkhand got `160 crore from abroad; in Chhattisgarh, the amount was `65 crore; and `143 crore in Madhya Pradesh , all in 2009-2010. Hundreds of crores of rupees are being injected into Odisha to alter its religious profile.

This raises concerns about why the Home Ministry looked the other way, until it was pushed into a corner by repeated acts of Islamist terror in cities, Maoist violence and North-east militancy. It is only when Opposition leaders raised the heat on the Congress-led ruling coalition’s colossal failure to block terror channels by clamping down on sources of funding that some action was initiated. However, those who fear that there is a global conspiracy to balkanise India, just as the Soviet Union was, want that The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, be scrapped altogether. This will quash at its source the menace of foreign funds for potentially subversive activities such as evangelism, civil liberties, tribal uplift, poverty alleviation and the like.

In December 1991, the Soviet Union disintegrated into 15 smaller units, independent countries. Before this happened, the ground for the break-up was prepared by lakhs of of human rights activists and NGOs, recipients of foreign funds, who untiringly propagated glasnost and perestroika — openness and transparency in Government, and economic and political reforms, a campaign that culminated in the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Ethnic insurgency in constituent units contributed to the collapse. The West predictably hailed the events as a triumph of democracy. It marked the end of the Cold War between the US and the then USSR, leaving just the US-led power axis as a super power, and gave the transnational companies access to huge untapped markets and large natural resources.

The Government appears to have woken up rather late to the perils of unmonitored foreign funding. The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act came into being in 1976, to monitor foreign funds for voluntary organisations: money coming in as well as going out of the country. It was repealed when the 2010 Act was passed, coming into effect from May 1, 2011. Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules, 2011, framed under section 48 of FCRA, 2010 also came into effect at the same time. The new Act was touted as an improvement on the old one, with more stringent provisions being laid down to prevent misuse of such funds. However, if subversion and militancy continue unabated, the demand to scrap the act should be accepted. This will block channels of foreign funding.

For, those who wish to work for others’ uplift will do so by depending on local contributions or their own resources. ‘Mountain man’ Dashrath Manjhi single-handedly chiselled a one km-long, 16 ft-wide road through a hill in Bihar’s Gaya district so that people of his village did not have to travel around to reach Wazirganj, the nearest town. This arduous work, finished in 1982, took 22 years. A 50km distance was reduced to eight km by one man. And in Delhi, Nand Prakash Thareja, aged 87, has singlehandedly been providing succour to hundreds of persons since he retired as a senior bank officer in December 1985.

He began by first raising funds for altruistic bodies via the unique method of garnering contributions from the thousands who consulted him daily for guidance on the basis of astrology, palmistry and numerology. Since August 1996, his own trust has channelised the funds so raised every month to needy students, widows, indigent aged and other charities.

It has also turned a municipal park into a sylvan escape for residents, with an overhead water tank for everyone. The trust has spent over `2.6 crore till date, and wants to built a free hospital for the poor. But he still struggles for funds and has to depend on his resources.

These two successes owe to the power of individual initiative and not foreign funds

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