Centre for Policy Research and World Vision India lose their FCRA registrations
The story so far:
The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration for two prominent non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and World Vision India (WVI), was cancelled this month by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
What is FCRA? Why is The Home Ministry Cancelling Licences for NGOs?
Foreign Contribution Regulation Act is a law to regulate foreign donations to NGOs so that such funds are used for the intended purpose and do not affect the country’s internal security. Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) oversees the implementation of FCRA. The act was first enacted in 1976 and was replaced with an amended version in 2010, with further amendments in 2020.
Under this law, all NGOs must register themselves to be able to receive foreign funding for their activities in India. These donations can be for social, educational, economic, cultural and religious programmes.
The registration to receive foreign funding for such NGOs is valid for five years, after which it has to be renewed with the Home Ministry. The registration is renewed if the NGO complies with all the norms and regulations.
More than a thousand NGOs had their registrations due for renewal in 2020-21. However, many of them could not do it due to the COVID and amendments made to FCRA in 2020.
The home ministry gave multiple extensions in deadlines to renew registrations, with the latest deadline being 31 March 2024.
How many have lost registration?
Since 2015, more than 16 thousand FCRA registrations have been cancelled on accounts of violation. As of Jan 2022, there were 16,989 FCRA-registered NGOs in the country. The FCRA registration of 6000 NGOs ceased to operate on 1 January 2022 as either the ministry refused to renew their registration or they did not apply.
A Look at the Numbers
A 2012 report by MHA said that there are more than 20 lakh NGOs registered in India, and out of these, less than 2% are registered under the FCRA. It has to be kept in mind that these NGOs are susceptible to activities like money laundering and terror financing. Therefore, necessary steps for rigorous enforcement and coordination with foreign countries are required to keep a check on these activities.
In 2023, more than a thousand NGOs were granted fresh registration under FCRA, and nearly half the registrations under the religious category were for Christian NGOs. In December 2023, MHA in Lok Sabha said out of 1615 applications received for FCRA in 2021-22, as many as 722 were granted clearance, and 225 were rejected.
The ministry said that a total of 13,520 NGOs received 5,741.51 crore in foreign contributions in the years 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22.
Why were CPR and WVI’s registrations Cancelled?
The MHA alleged CPR of diverting funds from foreign contributions to fund protests and legal battles against developmental projects, misusing funds to affect India’s economic interests. The ministry alleged that CPR engaged in the production of current affairs programmes violating FCRA norms under section 3 of the act.
The Centre for Policy Research said the ministry’s decision is incomprehensible and disproportionate, and some of the reasons given challenge the very basis of the functioning of a research organisation.
World Vision India’s registration was cancelled for alleged violations from 2012-13 to 2020-21. It was the recipient of the highest amount of foreign donations among all the NGOs registered under FCRA.