Last night English news channel, TimesNow TV broke the story that 103 NGOs located in different parts of the country was under the Home Minister's scanner for Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) violations.
Around 20 of these NGOs are believed to fund Jihadi outfits that have links to Al Quaeda, JuD, LeT etc, The Gujarat Sarvajanik Welfare Trust in Gujarat is one such NGO in this list according to TimesNow.
A few are suspected of using foreign funds for mass conversion though no details are given who these NGOs are. A good number are suspected as Maoist sympathisers who channelize foreign funds to a Naxalite insurgency in the country. Again no clue given who these NGOs are even though it is an open secret within the sector that this is taking place - cooking snook at existing legislation.
Others are suspected of openly using the hawala route to convert their black money. TimesNow gives a hint that Indian opening batsman, Virender Sewhag is a prime suspect of using the hawala (money laundering) route to start an elitist international, high school.
TimesNow also screened repeated visuals of Bangalore based New Entity for Social Action (NESA) as one of these NGOs in the IB list. NESA, a networking NGO is suspected of channelising funds to another NGO which has no FCRA number. If so, this is only a technical infringement of FCRA unless the NGO to which funds have been channelized have been engaging in anti-national activities. At least two prominent UK based donors partnering NESA, can be expected to dive for cover in the event of NESA being booked.
A good number of these suspected NGOs have diverted funds meant for charitable purposes towards personal commercial investment for their founder members. TimesNow have given a hint that some of them are leading human rights organizations based in New Delhi and among them Dalit networking organizations .
The FCRA was tightened in the year 1985 on the ground that some NGOs were using foreign funds for 'anti-national' purposes. Under the law, the government can reject NGO applications for receiving foreign assistance if this is found against "the sovereignty and integrity of India, the public interest, freedom or fairness of election to any legislature, friendly relations with any foreign state, harmony between religious, racial, linguistic or regional groups, castes or communities."
For the NGOs, international assistance has been a double-edged sword, giving access to funds not forthcoming at home but leaving them open to charges of “foreign interference” from the regime and other political opponents. NGOs dependent on foreign funds continue to carry its stigma. Foreign funding to NGOs has been one of the most controversial issues for governments in many countries.
The managers of the biggest NGOs manage million dollar budgets with salaries and perks that are comparable to CEOs. They jet to international conferences, confer with top corporate and financial directors and make policy decisions that affect - in the great majority of cases adversely - millions of people ... especially the poor, women and informal sector working people.
In reality many NGOs are not "non-governmental" organizations in strict sense. They receive funds from overseas governments, work as private sub-contractors of local governments and/or are subsidized by corporate funded private foundations with close working relations with the state. Frequently they openly collaborate with governmental agencies at home or overseas. Their programs are not accountable to local people but to overseas donors who "review" and "oversee" the performance of the NGOs according to their criteria and interests.
The NGO officials are self-appointed and one of their key tasks is designing proposals that will secure funding. In many cases this requires that NGO leaders find out the issues that most interest the Western funding elites, and shaping proposals accordingly. The bottom line is that the growth of NGOs coincides with increased funding from neo-liberalism and the deepening of poverty everywhere.
The propaganda value of individual micro-enterprise success, however is important in fostering the illusion that neo-liberalism is a popular phenomenon. The fact is that frequent violent mass outbursts takes place in regions of aggressive micro-enterprise promotion as in the case of the recent backlash against microfinnce companies in Andhra Pradesh serves as a reality check of their true impact.
Mike Davis in The Planet of Slums:"Third World NGOs have proven brilliant at co-opting local leadership as well as hegemonizing the social space traditionally occupied by the Left. Even if there are some celebrated exceptions--such as the militant NGOs so instrumental in creating the World Social Forums-the broad impact of the NGO/"civil society revolution"...has been to bureaucratize and deradicalize urban social movements."
The government clampdown on NGOs is interesting from the view point of its timing. Foreign funded, particularly Ford Foundation funded NGOs had been in the forefront of the recent Anna Hazare insurrection. Though not much is known whether these organizations are also in the list of the Home Ministry's watch, the clampdown is a warning by the government that they are closely watching the steps of these NGOs. After the expose of their US funding of the Anna Hazare movement, these NGOs involved have already withdrawn into a shell. Now they have reason to feel additionally insecure.
The timing of the clamp down on NGOs could be also a signal that the government has decided to place NGOs under the Lokpal Bill. Many of the leading lights of the NGO sector are virtually a rags to riches story.These founders of NGOs have amassed wealth by diversion of funds to the extent that they have overnight turned crorepatis; owners of huge real estate properties and operate money lending activities.
The government have not only the FCRA to clamp down on them but also the anti-terror laws and the IT act. A whistle blower provision extending to their sector can bring curtains to both their career and life!