FOREIGN AID: 2,742 NGOs lose FCRA clearance in 3 years

Government of India has canceled or suspended the eligibility of thousands of non-government organizations to receive foreign aid in recent years, according to data from the ministry of home affairs, Government of India.

The biggest cull came in 2019, when it removed 2,171 NGOs from the list of organizations eligible to receive funds from abroad. This was around 9% of the then total of around 25,000 NGOs who were eligible to receive such funds.

Out of the 2,171 NGOs, 357 were taken off the list by denying them renewal of their registration, and another 1,809 organizations were taken off the list by canceling the permission issued to them before it was up for renewal.

For comparison, the previous year (2018) saw only 1 cancellation and 211 denials, even though there were 233 suspensions in that year.

Interestingly, in the pandemic-stricken 2020, the number of NGOs who lost their license to receive funds from abroad was only a modest 126, indicating that the government seemed to have shifted its attention to other matters.

As far as the total numbers are concerned, from a high of close to 27,000 NGOs approved to receive contributions from abroad under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act or FCRA, the total has fallen to 22,678 at present.

Until about two years ago, NGOs used to receive around Rs 17,000 cr every year through approved routes under the FCRA.

The impact of the cancellations of 2019 is not known as the final amounts received in financial year 2019-20 have not been compiled. NGOs have time till end of June this year to file their returns for that year.

However, going by the information furnished so far, the number seems to have taken a hit.

As of the data submitted so far, only Rs 1,921.56 cr has been reported as foreign contributions received by Indian NGOs in financial year 2019-20 (April 2019 to March 2020).

The home ministry also revealed that it has 1,331 FCRA renewal applications pending before it for action, while another 1,869 fresh approvals have been sought and remains pending.

Modi government has not exactly been a great supporter of NGOs, particularly international NGOs.

Some sections within the government see international NGOs, including those focused on human rights and the environment, as part of rich countries’ efforts to keep India’s development in check or tarnish its image.

Among the high profile NGOs to lose their FCRA approval has been Greenpeace India, the local arm of the world’s largest environmental activist group.