Breather for NGOs

News: The Centre has recently amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) rules. These modifications are a welcome step after the escalation of restrictions on the NGO sector since 2015.

What are the modifications introduced?

The government extended to September 30 the validity of FCRA entities whose five-year permits would lapse between July 1 and September 30 and had applied or would apply for renewal in this period.

The home ministry has also raised the limit that entities can receive from relatives abroad from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh without informing the government and has extended the disclosure period for donations above that from 30 to 90 days.

The time limit for applying for FCRA registration or prior permission to receive donations has been extended from 30 days to 45 days.

The requirement on declaring details of foreign donors every quarter has been reduced to once a year. And the stipulation that only 20% of foreign funds could be used for administrative purposes has been extended to 50%.

What are the issues with the changes introduced?

Although these relaxations will go some way towards easing the regulatory burden for NGOs, they do not significantly improve the ease of operating environment for NGOs, which are prey to arbitrary rules.

The relaxation of the donation threshold, for instance, from foreign “relatives” is inadequate, given the scale of funds that NGOs, especially rights-based ones, need to function efficiently.

Way forward

NGOs and civil society play an important role in a country like India in defending the interests of the poor, the hungry, and the disenfranchised.

Hence, rules that run contrary to the commitments to free speech and the defence of democratic rights are counter-productive for a country’s polity.

Source: This post is based on the article “Breather for NGOs” published in The Indian Express on 3rd Jul 22.

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