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Unopposed by a boycotting Opposition, RS passes FCRA Amendment Bill

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Unopposed by a boycotting Opposition, RS passes FCRA Amendment Bill
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Minister of state for Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai (file photo)

New Delhi: With the Opposition in a boycott of the Rajya Sabha session following suspension of eight members and the refusal of the Speaker to allow voting on controversial farm bills on Monday, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (Amendment) Bill.

The amendments in the Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha Tuesday, makes mandatory for office bearers of organisations seeking registration to provide their Aadhaar number.

The government justified the amendment, along with other amendments, with the contention that it is aiming at greater transparency in nthe transaction of the NGOs.

With zero opposition in the house,though some members made an apology of a discussion, the Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the bill. It will now be sent to the President for his assent to let it become law.

In the absence of any opposition in the house, and mainly replying to criticisms of the bill in the public domain, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said the legislation was not against any NGO and is an effort to maintain transparency.

He said,"This is certainly a bill to bring transparency. It is not against NGOs in any case. But only those NGOs which do not adhere to transparency may feel bad. This bill is in the interest of NGOs and transparency."

One of the major points of dispute about the provisions is the authority of the Centre to make 'summary enquiry' about an NGO on receipt of complaints about its fund utilisation.

The minister expressed the view that this bill was necessary in the context of internal security of the country as there are earlier instances where NGOs did not disclose their foreign funding and also did not furnish proper audit of their expenditure.

He quoted former finance minister P Chidambaram, who had told Parliament earlier that "about Rs 20,000 crore funding was received by NGOs but nobody knew where did the Rs 10,000 crore out of it, go."

On concerns expressed by some members about the new provision of compulsory opening of an account with the State Bank of India, Delhi to receive foreign funding by NGOs, he said the government has chosen SBI because it has branches in every part of the country.

He further told the House that NGOs can apply through their nearest branch of the nationalised bank to comply with the new provision.

Participating in the debate on the bill, BJP leader Arun Singh said it will streamline foreign funds received by NGOs and ensure that it is being used for their mission and objectives. He alleged misuse of funds by some NGO which indulged in funding extremists and anti-national outfits.

S R Balasubramoniyan (AIADMK) said that while seeking Aadhaar of members of an NGO was fine, the bill should not bulldoze NGOs doing good work. He cited the fact that during COVID-19 pandemic, NGOs have provided jobs and done social service

He added that the intention of the bill is good but it would have bad implications if concerns of members are not addressed.

Prashanta Nanda (BJD) said the government should ensure that genuine NGOs should not be harassed.

(With input from PTI)

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TAGS:FCRA Amendment Bill RS passes bill Minister justifies Aadhaar clause Account SBI Delhi branch 
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