Normally reticent and mild mannered Manmohan Singh in an interview to Science magazine during February mentioned that American NGO’s are funding the protests against Kudankulam nuclear plant. He also blamed protests against genetically modified crops on groups which were funded from the US and Scandinavian countries.
Among the largest members of the Indian economy is the NGO sector or what is known as the Third Sector or Civil Society (other than government and private) in academic circles.
Two important criteria are that they should be independent from government and organizations not meant for making profit. But many get money from the government or from foreign governments. The type of activities they are involved is mind-boggling which can extent from “aging issues” to “corruption” to “human rights” to “waste management”. Many of them call themselves “Civil Society” and involve in socio-political activities even though they do not directly participate in the electoral process. Many are Church-related organization and others involve in human rights issues as a civil society organization. The funding for many of these civil society groups is substantially international.
Before we proceed let us look at some numbers.
The international flow of funds is regulated by the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act [FCRA Act] of the Central Government which the ministry of home affairs has re-formulated now. In the period from 2001 to 2010 [ 9 years] such organizations received more than Rs 70000 crore
and in the year 2009-10 [of which data is available] it was Rs 10338 crore
Salient Features for the year 2009-2010 [ year for which latest data is available]
Its salient features are as below:
I. A total of 38436 Associations have been registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act up to 31.3.2010. During the year 2009-10, 2022 Associations were granted registration and 388 Associations were granted prior permission to receive foreign contribution.
II. 21508 Associations reported a total receipt of an amount of Rs.10, 337.59crore as foreign contribution.
III. Among the States and the Union Territories, the highest receipt of foreign contribution was reported by Delhi (Rs. 1815.91 crore), followed by Tamil Nadu (Rs. 1663.31 crore) and Andhra Pradesh (Rs. 1324.87 crore).
IV. Among the districts, the highest receipt of foreign contribution was reported byChennai (Rs. 871.60 crore), followed by Bengaluru (Rs. 702.43 crore) and Mumbai (Rs. 606.63 crore).
V. The list of donor countries is headed by the USA (Rs. 3105.73 crore) followed by Germany (Rs. 1046.30 crore) and UK (Rs. 1038.68 crore).
VI The list of foreign donors is topped by the Gospel For Asia Inc, USA (Rs. 232.71 crore) followed by the Fundacion Vicente Ferrer, Barcelona, Spain (Rs.228.60 crore) and the World Vision Global Centre, USA (Rs.197.62 crore).
VII. Among the Associations which reported receipt of foreign contribution, the highest amount of foreign contribution was received by the World Vision of India, Chennai, Tamil Nadu (Rs.208.94 crore), followed by the Rural Development Trust, Ananthapur, A.P. (Rs.151.31 crore) and Shri Sevasubramania Nadar Educational Charitable Trust, Chennai, T.N. (Rs. 94.28 crore).
VIII The highest amount of foreign contribution was received and utilized forEstablishment Expenses (Rs. 1482.58 crore), followed by Rural Development (Rs. 944.30 crore), Welfare of Children (Rs. 742.42 crore), Construction and Maintenance of school/college (Rs.630.78 crore) and Grant of Stipend/scholarship/assistance in cash and kind to poor/deserving children (Rs. 454.70 crore).
(We have provided some salient statistics from the Home ministry web site in Tables 1 to 5- See Appendix)
Some important observations.
Establishment expenses consist of buying land, buildings, jeeps, setting up offices, mobiles, laptops, cameras, salaries, consultancy fees, honorarium, and foreign travel etc., constituting nearly 50 % of the expenses and in some cases as high as 70%. This goes against the grain of service motto where the ultimate recipient is supposed to get the maximum. Now, such organizations even recruit “executives” from management institutions. Most of the top recipients are Church or Church related organizations. They use the funds for service as well as religious purposes.
However, they are not covered by Right to Information Act as they are not part of Government. For instance, this writer has tried unsuccessfully to get the annual accounts from the web site of the top 25 recipients, many of whom are often reported in newspapers and TV and stressing the importance of “transparency” in the functioning of the government. Many do not have any information on their web sites. Some of the web sites contain nothing on finances. These Civil society groups who day in day out harangue us on TV talk shows about transparency and disclosures for the government and corporate sector etc., should practice what they preach
There is a long list of illustrative programmes /activities to be carried out by these associations receiving foreign contributions. This is given in the Home Ministry web site
More importantly the amended act suggests that acceptance of foreign contributions should be within the broad parameters as listed in the appendix 1
We have provided in Appendix 1 to 4 some salient aspects of the act including a paltry punishment for violating the act.
Nature of Use of Funds:
Significant portion of the received funds are used for ‘Establishment Expenses” which is against the basic cannon of charity work. It is expected that Charity involves lesser fixed assets creation particularly of the flamboyant nature. Also the jet setting aspect of the NGO’s provide clues to the nature of expenditure. Whether it is New York or Geneva we find members of Indian NGO community lobbying for some cause mostly of human rights. This creates a closed loop wherein they receive money to further some agenda and for that they receive more money
Large amount of funds go to Christian organizations whose purpose is conversion. This act of “soul harvesting” or “planting of the Church” is an anachronistic practice of nineteenth century which is totally incongruous in the twenty first century where faith based political movements like the Church movements are disappearing from Europe their cradle of growth. Europe which has given up on the Church is trying to overcome its guilt by exporting Christianity to India. The recipient organizations may argue that they are serving poor but do they need European money to serve Indian poor.
Also some organizations like World Vision appear to be secular or non-denominational in India. But the fact of the matter is that is Christian in origin and membership. This has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of USA. We can take them as a representative example wherein they do not mention much about their exclusive Christian identity when campaigning for funds within India
To quote from their website
History of our Christian identity
World Vision was founded 60 years ago as a Christian humanitarian organization. Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, World Vision’s work with the poor and oppressed is a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people.
As a Christian organization, World Vision has virtually the same Statement of Faith included in its September 1950 articles of incorporation. While about 20 percent of our worldwide staff are of other faiths, all prospective staff at World Vision U.S. are required to sign that Statement of Faith or, as an alternative, the Apostles’ Creed.
Far from being narrow in scope, the Apostles’ Creed and World Vision’s Statement of Faith reflect the basic theological beliefs shared for millennia by the vast majority of orthodox Christian traditions — Roman Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Pentecostal, evangelical, or Orthodox.
Issues of the current court case
The issues at the center of the Spencer case — the plaintiffs’ denial of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ — are central to Christianity. By definition, a Christian believes that Jesus Christ is the only son of God. World Vision believes one can be a good person, a moral person — even a religious person — without believing this. But World Vision believes that one cannot be a Christian unless one can confess, as the Apostle Peter did in Matthew 16:16 (NIV), “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
To be clear, we hire Christians, imperfect and flawed, not because we think they are superior, but because we believe that any real success will come only through the presence of Christ in each employee’s heart and His power through prayer in each staff member’s mind and hands.
The plaintiffs in this case signed the Statement of Faith when they were hired, but later changed their core beliefs. It was only when these staff members stopped attending World Vision’s weekly chapel services and instead began alternative worship and study sessions at work that the change in their beliefs became obvious. We regret the departure of our former colleagues, and we pray they have been able to find areas of humanitarian service that are compatible with their new beliefs.
Hiring people of shared beliefs
World Vision believes that staff commitment to core Christian beliefs as we understand them from the Bible is essential for maintaining our Christian identity. Organizationally, our humanitarian work is done as a reflection of — and an extension of — our Christian faith. We represent Christ in our work.
Hiring people of shared belief is a common practice among charitable institutions, many of whom receive federal funding. A non-profit that advocates for animal rights, for example, would be unlikely to hire a hunter or a non-vegetarian. An environmental organization is unlikely to hire a global warming skeptic. Non-profit organizations are defined by their core mission and motivation. To hire those uncommitted to that mission would be to undermine the organization
Who we are and how we serve
World Vision has worked hard to be clear with our donors in our communication and transparent about our Christian identity. We do not want to take donations under false pretences.
Similarly, World Vision always identifies itself as a Christian organization in the communities where we serve, including many where there are few, if any, Christians. World Vision works in many countries where the majority of people follow another religion, including some areas where Christian teaching is not welcome. In all cases, we respect the local culture and abide by local laws.
World Vision is a signatory to the Red Cross Code of Conduct and does not proselytize. That is, we never require aid recipients to listen to a religious message as a condition of our help, nor do we use aid as an inducement for recipients to change religion. We also never discriminate on the basis of religion in giving aid; we serve every child in need that we possibly can, of any faith or
Our staff worldwide
More than 80 percent of World Vision’s 40,000 staff members worldwide are Christian.
We work in some countries where there are few Christians with the needed professional qualifications, and in some where it is illegal to hire only Christians. However, in each of the nearly 100 countries where World Vision works, our leadership is Christian.
In the United States, nearly 50 years of federal law has guaranteed that faith-based organizations can consider religion in hiring staff. The 1964 Civil Rights Act explicitly allows religious preference in employment by any “religious association, corporation, educational institution or society.”
Similarly, Congress has never said that faith-based organizations lose their hiring rights if they receive federal grants. Neither have the courts. In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that religious hiring rights do not violate the Constitution’s ban on government preference for religion.
The above mentioned quote highlights the dubious role played by mainly religious organizations presenting themselves as social or secular organizations in our context but receiving massive funds for global Christian activities
We do not find Rama Krishna Mission or that of Amritanandamayi in these government funded endeavors
The power of the Converting Lobby
The planting of the cross [conversion] among the poorer and weaker segments creates social tensions. If a girl gets converted then her parents and siblings are impacted giving raise to family and social tensions. But if even SC points this out there is a furore and the court is asked to erase it from its records.
How much the power of the church and its lobbies has spread far and wide is illustrated by the Supreme Court altering the wordings in its judgment in the famous Dara Singh Case
In the supreme Court of India-Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction.Criminal appeal nb. 1366 of 2005 Rabindra Kumar Pal @ Dara Singh …. Appellant(s) Versus Republic of India…. Respondent(s) with Criminal appeal no: 1259 of 2007 And Criminal appeal nos: 1357-1365
Its original verdict, the apex court observed, “the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity. All these aspects have been correctly appreciated by the High Court, which modified the sentence of death into life imprisonment with which we concur”. This was later modified as, “more than 12 years have elapsed since the act was committed, we are of the opinion that the life sentence awarded by the High Court need not be enhanced in view of the factual position discussed in the earlier paras.”
Secondly, the sentence, “It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of use of force, provocation, conversion, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other” (the meaning of the constitutional principle of equality of faiths and non-discrimination in matters of religion) was replaced
by “There is no justification for interfering in someone’s religious belief by any means”.
The facts are as follows: while upholding the life sentence on Dara Singh, main accused in the Staines murder case, Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chouhan observed that the murder had taken place in an atmosphere that had been poisoned by the conversion activism of foreign missionaries in that part of Orissa. They said in their judgment pronounced in open court:
“It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of use of force, provocation, conversion, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other.”
However, our two Supreme Court judges, proved even more nimble-footed than what John Dayal and company had expected. The original judgement was pronounced on 21 Jan. (a Friday), and the cacophony orchestrated by the Christian lobby started straightaway, reaching a crescendo during the weekend and on the following Monday.
On 25 Jan. (Tuesday), Sathasivam and Chouhan re-opened the matter in open court and announced the deletions / changes. There are some reports that the counsels for the two parties (the State and Dara Singh) were given notice to attend, but this is not verifiable as yet. What is certain is that there was no application for a Review Petition or any other form of legal representation before the two judges, asking them to reconsider their observations already on record. It was a suo motu act by the two judges. Clearly, Dayal and his cohorts would have been delighted and overjoyed with the supersonic speed of the two judges and their commendable powers of foresight and anticipation.
What can possibly account for this change of mind and heart? Divine intervention, a hyperactive conscience? Impossible to pinpoint, for mere mortals. What happened was the observations quoted above (“It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in…) were deleted / expunged and replaced by the platitudinous and ambivalent sentence, “There is no justification for interfering in someone’s religious belief by any means.” This piece of pontification has no judicial import at all, either in the case under discussion or in general. All that can be said is that the somersault of this Bench in this case will be debated for quite some time.
The above mentioned example shows that the power of Church for converting religion has been made in to a major fundamental right and it is supported by Global funds. We would like to point out that the right to convert does not include the right to convert using foreign money.
We also find that from the point of funding as well as conversion activities the so called “New Age or Evangelical” or “born again Christians” are much more active compared to the traditional Catholic or Protestant churches of India. Of course this needs another article.
As is seen from the appendix FCRA recipients are not expected to use it for political purposes or affecting the security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the State. But in the case of protest by opponents of Kudankulam nuclear reactor it was observed that the recipients have used it for opposing the plant. Not only that, they have also misused Church premises and priests have actively participated in the protest. Actually they used to ring the Church bells to mobilize the protesters at short notice
Narayanswamy, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said the home ministry had probed the background and funding of the NGOs and that the government had received reports that these organizations were being funded by outfits in both the US and Scandinavian nations. “We have received certain reports about the NGOs in Tirunelveli and Thuthukudi around the Kudankulam project, who are being funded by organizations from the US and Scandinavian countries,” Narayanasamy said.
Twelve NGOs in Tamil Nadu had received funds and it was probed whether these were used for the purpose for which they were meant, he said. The ministry found that some of them violated the norms and the home ministry cancelled the license of three NGOs. “The ministry is initiating action against one of the NGOs, which did not follow the guidelines. Now the process is going on,” Narayanswamy said.
The minister said he was told that the people, who are agitating against the Russian-aided project, were brought from various areas on vehicles and trucks and given “good treatment” by the organizers.
“The protesters have sat on a hunger strike near Kudankulam project site and have not allowed workers to get inside. They have incited violence there and, therefore, we found how the money was coming to them,” he said.
We feel that much of the political activities of the church may also be linked to the so called Liberation theology of the Catholic Church practiced by some of the Latin American countries in the eighties. This theology wants the Church to be in the forefront of struggles of the common people in terms of poverty or other social issues.
Sources said foreign contribution to 12 NGOs in two districts — Tirunelveli, where the plant is based, and neighbouring Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu — has increased sharply over the last four years, ever since agitations against the plant started. “These NGOs received over Rs. 31 crore in 2010-11, with the foreign contribution to some doubling during the agitation period,” a senior government functionary said, adding that the money given is mostly for social causes such as education, health and sanitation.
The Tamil Nadu government was asked by the Centre to register cases against two of the 112 NGOs for diverting foreign funds under the provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act.
The role of 10 other NGOs in the Kudankulam agitation is also being probed
The home ministry’s website shows that there has been an overall increase in foreign funding to NGOs in Tamil Nadu, mostly Christian organisations. While the Tuticorin Diocesan Association witnessed a 50% jump in foreign funding, the People’s Education for Action and Community Empowerment (an NGO headed by chief agitator Uday Kumar) received foreign aid of Rs. 2.64 crore.
NGOs in Tamil Nadu received over Rs. 2,500 crore in foreign funds between 06-07 and 10-11.
In what is perhaps the first international reaction to the Indian government’s heightened scrutiny of NGOs receiving foreign funds, the United Nations Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya has in a report presented at the ongoing session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva expressed concern about the new regime introduced by Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010.The more stringent FCRA, 2010, which replaced the FCRA of 1976, came into force on 1 May 2011.
In her report (presented on 5 March) on the situation of human rights defenders in India, Sekaggya has observed that some of the provisions of the new Act “may lead to abuse by the authorities when reviewing applications of organizations which were critical of authorities”.
Incidentally, among those who spoke at the session after the Special Rapporteur presented her report, was Henri Tiphagne, executive director of People’s Watch, a Madurai-based human rights organisation, which was sent a notice by the FCRA wing of the Home Ministry in early February. In his oral statement at the UN, Tiphagne raised the issue of government action on NGOs in Tamil Nadu.
“In recent weeks, NGOs in Tamil Nadu have been targeted on allegations of opposing the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, presenting an example of abuse of this law with any due process adhered to.”
Tiphagne, just back from Geneva and on a short visit to Delhi, spoke to Firstpost about the significance of the UN Special Rapporteur’s statement.
Madurai, Apr 28 (PTI)
The Amnesty International has appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take steps for immediate release of all protesters arrested in connection with the anti-Koodankulam Nuclear plant agitation and drop “false” charges against them. In a letter to the Prime Minister, a copy of which has been sent to the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy which has been spearheading the stir, they also appealed to Singh to put an immediate end to the “harassment of those resorting to peaceful protests and respect protestors’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in accordance with international law.” Amnesty International members also referred to S.P.Udhayakumar, PMANE convenor’s charge that the Indian authorities had “failed” to respond satisfactorily to several site and safety concerns raised by an independent group of experts. They expressed “dismay” that officials belonging to the Home Ministry searched Udhayakumar’s home and that police
The above mentioned examples suggest about the reach of these NGO’s at highest global decision making bodies and the pressure they can exert on Government of India regarding any action contemplated against their activities
Illegal activities and NGO’s
Additionally, the lack of severe penalties imposed by regulators against banks and financial institutions, coupled with the low statistics, may indicate a lack of appropriate due diligence procedures and/or weaknesses in the transaction monitoring systems. The Government of India (GOI) should ensure reporting entities fully implement appropriate due diligence procedures, to include both computerized tracking systems and active engagement by trained frontline personnel
The GOI should press for presidential approval to implement the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 1976, which would extend foreign contribution reporting requirements to any non-profit organization that has a political, cultural, economic, educational or social focus and automate notification of suspicious transactions to the FIU.
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume II Money Laundering and Financial Crimes March 2011 [pages 107/109
This report actually cautions Government of India about the activities of NGO’s which receive funds from abroad since the end use monitoring mechanism is very weak in our context
First and foremost issue is pertaining to the fundamental question whether we are still white man’s burden. If the answer is negative then the Act need to be scrapped. We feel the whole idea of FCRA Act for foreign contribution is redundant since we are not any more white man’s burden and hence no need for foreign contribution to “ improve the lot” of Indians.
Some Hindu organizations may be impacted—but we are not distinguishing between any religious denominations. All of them can conduct their activities with local donations.
As Prime Minister correctly pointed out that many of these foreign sponsors do not understand about our developmental challenges and so it is very much possible that they could be misguided or even agenda driven to serve some global vested interests.
Actually India is providing substantial Aid to countries in Africa and other Asia.
So it is time to scrap the Act and stop all foreign funding for any charity including “ religious “ activities since propagation and conversion activities cause substantial social tension etc as observed by the Supreme Court in the Dara singh case.
Also as clearly pointed out in the path breaking book “Breaking up India” by Rajeev Malhotra and Arvind Neelakandan– the activities of these Church organizations is purely “political” and meant to facilitate internal turmoil. This book covers a vast gamut about the dangers to the republic from these organizations
[Breaking India by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan Amaryills New Delhi-2011]
An earlier book—NGO Activists and Foreign Funds edited by Radha Rajan and Krishen Kak emphasizes this point and provide details regarding many NGO organizations. [NGOs Activists and Foreign Funds: Edited by Radha Rajan and Krishen Kak Vigil Public opinion forum Chennai 2nd edition 2007]
Recently Russia has approved a bill that introduces stringent control over the activities of foreign funded non-government and non-commercial organizations in a move designed to pre-empt any “coloured revolution” in the country. It says, and to quote “The Kremlin has learnt its lessons from a string of “coloured revolutions” in the former Soviet Republics— the “rose revolution in Georgia, the “orange revolution” in Ukraine and the “tulip revolution” in Kyrgyzstan— all inspired and orchestered by western-funded Civil Society groups”.
Incidentally, there is an act in the USA called Foreign Agents Registration Act [FARA] and it provides for penalties up to ten years in jail for acting as a foreign agent or getting foreign funds without notification to the Attorney General. FARA was originally passed in 1938 to prevent the spread of Nazi ideas and propaganda.
It is important that the Government of India bans foreign funding of civil society groups and
NGOs who want to reform India or use it for conversion. We are no more the “white man’s burden”. Scrap the FCRA and save the republic should be the call of our times by policy makers and other concerned patriots.
The acceptance of foreign contribution by the association/ person is not likely to affect prejudicially –
(i) the sovereignty and integrity of India; or
(ii) the security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the
(iii) the public interest; or
(iv) freedom or fairness of election to any Legislature; or
(v) friendly relation with any foreign State; or
(vi) harmony between religious, racial, social, linguistic,
regional groups, castes or communities.
And the acceptance of foreign contribution-
(i) shall not lead to incitement of an offence;
(ii) shall not endanger the life or physical safety of any person.
Who cannot receive foreign contribution?
Ans. As defined in Section 3(1) of FCRA, 2010, foreign contribution
cannot be accepted by any :
(a) a candidate for election;
(b) correspondent, columnist, cartoonist, editor, owner, printer or
publisher of a registered newspaper;
(c) Judge, government servant or employee of any Corporation or any
other body controlled on owned by the Government;
(d) member of any legislature;
(e) political party or office bearer thereof;
(f) organization of a political nature as may be specified under subsection
(1) of Section 5 by the Central Government.
(g) association or company engaged in the production or broadcast of
audio news or audio visual news or current affairs programmes
through any electronic mode, or any other electronic form as defined in
clause (r) of sub-section (i) of Section 2 of the Information Technology Act,
2000 or any other mode of mass communication;
(h) correspondent or columnist, cartoonist, editor, owner of the
association or company referred to in clause (g).
Explanation – In clause (c) and section 6, the expression “corporation’
means a corporation owned or controlled by the Government and includes a Government company as defined in section 617 of the
Companies Act, 1956.
(i) individuals or associations who have been prohibited from receiving
Are there any banned organizations from whom foreign
contribution should not be accepted?
Ans. Yes. FCRA is meant to ensure that foreign contribution is received
from legitimate sources and utilised for legitimate purposes by any person. A
list of banned organizations is available in MHA’s website
. In particular, the list of foreign
entities/individuals can be seen in http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/AQList.htm
Section 35: Punishment for contravention of any provision of the Act:
Whoever accepts, or assists any person, political party or organisation in
accepting, any foreign contribution or any currency or security from a foreign
source, in contravention of any provision of this Act or any rule or order
made thereunder, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may
extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.
The author wishes to acknowledge Ms. Sangeetha Raman of Chennai for research assistance.
About Professor Vaidyanathan
The author is Professor of Finance and Control, Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views are personal and do not reflect that of his organization.