17 NGOs granted FCRA licence as work picks up pace after COVID

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SynopsisThe home ministry has granted FCRA licences to 17 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Dr Aabaji Thatte Seva Aur Anusandhan Sanstha (ATSAS) and Grameen Foundation for Social Impact (GFSI), according to officials. The home ministry has granted FCRA licences to 17 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Dr Aabaji Thatte Seva Aur Anusandhan Sanstha (ATSAS) and Grameen Foundation…

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The home ministry has granted FCRA licences to 17 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Dr Aabaji Thatte Seva Aur Anusandhan Sanstha (ATSAS) and Grameen Foundation for Social Impact (GFSI), according to officials.

The home ministry has granted FCRA licences to 17 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Dr Aabaji Thatte Seva Aur Anusandhan Sanstha (ATSAS) and Grameen Foundation for Social Impact (GFSI), according to officials. Last year, the Foreigners Contribution Registration Act (FCRA), 2010 was amended to tighten the limit of “administrative expenses” and exclude “public servants” from the list of entities eligible to receive funds from abroad.

Nagpur-based ATSAS runs National Cancer Institute (NCI), where former BJP Rajya Sabha MP Ajay Sancheti is among the governing board members. The FCRA licence of ATSAS was revoked by the home ministry in 2019 for failure to file annual reports. An FCRA licence is mandatory for NGOs that want to receive foreign funds. In 2020, the ministry had granted licences to 165 organisations, and in 2019 to 683 NGOs.

According to the FCRA, foreign funds can be obtained for cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programmes after seeking the government’s permission or FCRA registration. Gurgaon-based GFSI, which works on digital finance among the poor, was given approval for the FCRA licence under the ‘economic and social’ category, officials said. Financial inclusion, which means providing financial services to all, is one of the focus areas of the Narendra Modi government.

In the first two month of 2021, four NGOs were awarded FCRA licences under the ‘religious and educational’ categories. Among them, there were two that were run by Christians and one each by Hindus and Sikhs, according to the ministry. It includes the famous Hindu temple at Dakor in Gujarat, and the Shree Ranchhodrayji Maharaj Mandir Trust.

The two Christian NGOs – Bethel Sennitt Educational and Charitable Society and Avathar Charitable Trust – are based in Hyderabad. To discourage NGOs from engaging in religious conversions, the home ministry has made it obligatory for functionaries and members of NGOs to file an affidavit declaring whether they have been involved in any act of religious conversion or been prosecuted for communal disharmony.

“Several of these NGOs applied for a licence last year, but the process was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a few cases, the FCRA licences have been renewed after obtaining documents and field verification,” said a senior official.

From 2011 to 2019, the ministry had cancelled the certificates of registration of more than 19,000 NGOs, including those of Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Teesta Setalvad’s NGO, Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP), Compassion International, Lawyers Collective, citing lack of statutory compliances such as submission of annual returns and maintenance of proper accounts.

As per the ministry, the annual inflow of foreign contribution was over Rs 58,000 crore between 2016-17 and 2018-19. Through the 2020 amendment of FCRA, the government empowered itself to be able to direct the violator to not use the funds by holding a “summary inquiry”. Earlier, it was done only after the person or association had been “found guilty” of violation of the Act.

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