Weeks after the government clamped down on environment NGO Greenpeace over Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violations, the international funding organisation, Ford Foundation has been put under the scanner on the orders of the ruling government.
The Modi government has stated that the funds released by the foundation be routed through proper channels for it wants to make sure that the funds are utilised for “welfare activities sans compromising on the concerns of national security.”
The MHA has asked the RBI to ensure that any release of funds from the Ford Foundation be brought to the ministry’s notice. Sources say, the move came after it was found that many NGOs, which have been receiving funds from the Ford Foundation, have not filed their annual returns for the past few years. Consequently, the government has also cancelled the registration of 8,975 NGOs for not filing their annual returns declaring their foreign funding.
“As per Section 18 of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010, every person or organisation who has been granted a license under the Act shall furnish the details of foreign funding received within nine months every fiscal. The annual return should also declare the source from whereand the manner in which foreign contribution was received, and the purpose and manner in which the funds were utilised,” read the cancellation order.
Ford Foundation is the most ‘generous’ donor in India. According to a business daily, Business Standard, India received over $20 million in grants from the foundation between 2012 and 2014. Interestingly, the government itself has been the indirect recipient of funds from the foundation. The ‘anti-national’ foundation also provided aid to various government projects and government-run schemes such as MGNREGA and the Empowerment of Adolescent Girls among various others.
The Foundation has, over the years, also provided fiscal aid to India’s top educational institutions such as IITs, IIMs, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia to name a few. The Ford Foundation made its debut in India in 1952 and played a crucial role in the Green Revolution of 1960s, which helped the country become self-sufficient in food.
The latest controversy arose after the Gujarat government alleged that the US-based organisation was interfering in the internal affairs of the country through an NGO Sabrang Trust run by social activist Teesta Setalvad. In an email response to Tehelka, the foundation clarified that they have not been contacted by the government so far. “Over many decades, the foundation has built a strong relationship with India and has contributed to the growth of the country. We have been and continue to respect the laws of the land. Presently, we have not heard from the mha. Our aim is to work closely with the government to clarify any area of concern,” read the mail from the foundation.
Ironically, the Gujarat government which had ‘alerted’ the Centre about Ford Foundation had received aid from the US-based organisation. As per the foundation’s report, GEER Foundation, a Gujarat government agency, received $1.22 lakh in 2002. Then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is ex-officio chairman of the Foundation. Another agency Gujarat Institute of Development Research (GIDR), whose financial advisor is Gujarat’s education department, received $197,759, the same year.
The civil society organisations have been on the radar of the government ever since the leaked Intelligence Bureau report mentioned that some of the NGOs were stalling the development of the country. It is also believed that the government had prepared a ‘hit list’ of NGOs after taking into accounts the content of the IB reports. PM’s “five-star activists” comments at the joint address of chief ministers and chief justices of high courts was a clear indication that the civil society in India is not going to have an easy run during his tenure. In fact, even the previous government had cracked down on several NGOs using FCRA, who were spearheading protests in various parts of the government. In 2012, then home minister P Chidambaram had put the NGOs that led the protest against Kundankulam nuclear power plant under the scanner saying “they had misused foreign funds.”