In a move that has left many befuddled, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has removed all data with respect to NGOs whose Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) licences were cancelled from its website. According to a report in the Indian Express, this was done in order to remove “unnecessary” data from the revamped website.
The earlier version of the FCRA website provided detailed information of NGOs with valid FCRA licences, NGOs whose licences were cancelled due to various reasons, NGOs whose licences had expired, etc. Data on annual returns of NGOs, which was useful for ascertaining compliances with these organisations, has also been removed.
It must be recalled that last year and earlier this year FCRA licences of some of the prominent and high-profile NGOs such Oxfam, Missionaries of Charity, and Indian Medical Association, among others, were cancelled. Some of the licences were restored after international donor organisations and activists raised their voices in protest. More recently, the FCRA licence of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has also been cancelled without assigning any reason.
The latest move by the MHS is confounding, given that the database provided valuable information about the validity of FCRA licences to potential international donors. Data on quarterly foreign contributions have also been removed.
On July 1, the government issued a couple of gazette notifications of amended FCRA rules that now allow political parties, members of the legislature, political candidates, judges, government servants, journalists, and media houses to receive foreign contributions from relatives living abroad. Earlier, all of them were barred from accepting foreign contributions in any form.
The Indian Express quoting an unnamed MHA official said, “Whatever data was deemed not useful or unnecessary has been removed. The overall data on the number of NGOs that have lost licence and the number of NGOs which have filed annual returns have been maintained as it is”.
In April, Tatsat Chronicle reported how NGOs are facing a funds crunch for a number of reasons, including coercive contributions to PM Cares fund and large-scale cancellation of FCRA licences of NGOs.