Modi government‘s crackdown on the NGOs receiving foreign funds have augmented the long existing tensions between the two amidst the fear that the government’s watch over the NGOs are increasing.
In a strong move against the NGOs, the Centre has cancelled the registrations of nearly 9, 000 of such foreign funded non - governmental organisations for violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) citing that they failed to file the annual returns. NGOs like Greenpeace, Ford Foundation, Gates Foundation and several others have been targeted and their bank accounts were frozen. These organizations would be barred from receiving foreign funds. There are around 40, 000 registered non-governmental organizations in India half of which are foreign-funded. For the NGO Greenpeace, only a small portion of their donation comes from abroad. The government claimed that the organization had “prejudicially affected the economic interest of the state”. The Ford Foundation was also among the NGOs targeted. Based in New York, it funds programs in India to improve the livelihood of the poor and advocates economic, social rights and women’s reproductive health. Another NGO, Sabrang trust run by human rights activist Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand was also targeted by the Modi government. Setalvad had fought for the rights of victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat during which Modi was the Chief Minister.
The various allegations against these non- governmental organizations include failing to comply with the existing rules, refusing to file the details, hampering developmental activities and even carrying out religious conversions. The accusations are either false or half truths. The fact that some of these registered NGOs doesn’t function righteously couldn’t be neglected. The attempt of the Modi government to hunt down these specific organizations that strive hard to protect the environment or fight for human rights is not justifiable. The efforts to muzzle them down are due to the clandestine corporate and communal interests. The government moves against these NGOs stem from prejudice. US Ambassador Richard Varma had critisised the action against the foreign-funded organizations. There should be a transparency in the activities and financial dealings of the NGOs. But cancelling the license for not paying the annual returns is purely a retaliatory action. Numerous such organizations in the country are usually given time to resolve the issues when they fail to do so. BJP and other political parties never submit their accounts. The present NDA government is tagging along the previous UPA government.
The NGOs are hunted down because they stand with the people who are driven away from their homes by the government who nurture the corporate interest along with the politicians who resist and suppress any opposition against them. Targeting the NGOs is also moving against the right to disagree, protests and also the constitutional right to congregate. The activists are dubbed as traitors with some of them even tortured in prisons. These non-governmental organizations have contributed towards the formation of several important pro-public laws in the country like the Right to Information Act, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the National Food Security Act. Therefore the Centre’s move against these NGOs would only adversely affect the people.