Saturday, June 11, 2016

NITI Aayog invites applications from Schools to Establish Atal Tinkering Laboratories

Schools Grants For Schools managed by NGOs,Trusts,Society in India

Government of India, NITI AAYOG(National Institution for Transforming India) Atal Innovation Mission Accepting the Proposals from schools (Grade VI – XII) managed by Government, local body or private trusts/society/NGOs.

Organization ;- NITI AAYOG(National Institution for Transforming India)

Last Date to Apply: - 17th June 2016

About the NITI AAYOG schemes:-

National Institution for Transforming India vision to Cultivate one Million children in India as Neoteric Innovators, Atal Innovation Mission(AIM) is establishing Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATLs) in schools across all the States in India. Main objective of this scheme is to foster creativity, curiosity and imagination in young minds; and inculcate skills such as design mindset, computational thinking, adaptive learning, physical computing etc.

Eligibilities to Apply:-

Schools (Grade VI – XII) managed by Government, local body or private trusts/society (NGOs) to set up ATL.

Funding Support:-

· The applicant schools would be provided financial support in the form of Grant-in-aid for a maximum period of 5 years.

· One time establishment charge of up to Rs. 10.0 lakh would be provided for each ATL in the first year for instruments

Selection Process:-

Short listed schools will be invited to participate in an Innovation Contest which will be informed by AIM. Each school will form groups of maximum 3 students and send one entry for the contest. The entries will be judged on the basis of following parameters:

a. Novelty of innovation in identified areas

b. Clarity of expression

c. Demonstration

d. Potential impact

Teams of top 3 entries will be given an opportunity to participate in Intel Science and Engineering Fair. Selected Schools will be required to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Bond with AIM Directorate.

Selection Process Time lines:

Round I > Invite Applications (3 Weeks)

Screening ( 2 Week )

Round II > Final Selection: Contest (3 Weeks )

How to apply:-

Eligible Schools Managed by Government, local body or private trusts/society(NGOs) desirous to establish ATLs Requested to submit their application Through online to the Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog Website links below.

Before applying the Grant Please See the Grant Guidelines:-

Guidelines for setting up of Tinkering Laboratories under Atal Innovation Mission – ‘Atal Tinkering Laboratories’(Application Form)

Click to Apply Online

For More Information See on NITI AAYOG Website


Civil society slams use of FCRA to target NGOs

NEW DELHI: Over 700 civil society organisations from across the country have opposed the use of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to target organisations working on human rights issues and with marginalised communities. Since last year foreign funding to NGOs has dropped by half to Rs 7,600 crore in 2014-2015 and over 10,500 NGOs have had their licences suspended.

FCRA law regulates foreign funding to organisations in India. The ministry of home affairs cancelled the FCRA registration of over 9,000 organisations last year for not filing mandatory returns regarding receipt and use of foreign funding.

Describing the use of FCRA to target organisations as a "worrisome trend" Voluntary Action Network of India's Mathew Cherian said "we are today witnessing a concerted attempt being made by the state to use the FCRA law to erode the credibility of leading and highly reputed NGOs." Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative's Venkatesh Nayak said that while the government was hounding NGOs on technical grounds, it has approved an amendment permitting political parties to receive funding from foreign companies. "This is against the objectives of the FCRA law which is to insulate political parties and the electoral process from foreign business interests."

Lawyers Collective's Anand Grover said, "since our licence has been suspended we have not been able to pay our employees. We plan to challenge the suspension".

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Civil-society-slams-use-of-FCRA-to-target-NGOs/articleshow/52696519.cms


FCRA provisions remind of emergency era: civil society

Civil Society leaders say that FCRA has become a tool to muzzle dissent and urged the government to stop targeting NGOs in the name of FCRA because it affects people living in the margins.

New Delhi: Recent developments surrounding civil society space in India has produced a worrisome trend, leaders of India’s civil society said at a press conference convened in New Delhi today.

This, leading civil society actors said, was leading to the curtailment on the activities of civil society organizations besides an increase in punitive actions by the state that bears a footprint of selective targeting.

The press conference, addressed by prominent civil society representatives, including Mathew Cherian, Paul Divakar and Anand Grover, was in the backdrop of suspension of the FCRA registration of the legal advocacy firm 'Lawyers Collective’.

Expressing their concern for targeting NGOs in the garb of violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), activists cautioned the government against the culture of 'Watchlists' and 'Crackdowns'.

There are approximately 1.2 million NGOs in India with around 12.7 million people working in the sector.

Mathew Cherian, Chair, Voluntary Association Network of India, criticised the government for ushering in a non-enabling environment for the sector, much to the disadvantage of some of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities.

Stating that foreign funding for Indian NGOs has dropped down to half from Rs 13,600 crore to Rs 7,600 crore in the year 2014-15, he said "Money meant for development cause is going to other countries because if restrictions in India.”

Expressing his concern over the government being out to tighten the screws on the civil society sector, Matthew advocated that the sector should be free from regulations even as he stated that about 10,550 NGOs lost license during last year. “We don't have a level playing field with the corporate sector in terms of foreign funding. Some NGOs may not be credible but as a sector we enjoy credibility. Even businesses can use money for anti-national activities,” he said.

Civil society has lost to the corporate sector in terms of foreign funding and is bereft of a level playing field, alleged representatives from across the spectrum in New Delhi.

Tracing the history of FCRA, Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said, said that the law was introduced during emergency and the present government is using FCRA to curb dissent. “FCRA was first passed in 1976 when the government placed the country under emergency, suspending all fundamental rights,” he said.

Terming the sector as a vigilant guardian for the marginalised and most vulnerable people, he said, “since the amendments in 2010, the was being misused to muzzle down voices of dissent and protest.”

Ironically, FCRA was first targeted by the government of Mrs Indira Gandhi to muzzle the Gandhi Peace Foundation.

“What activity is permissible by the government?” he asked, stating that “this is a major cause of concern as executive decisions are being taken without proper systems in place.”

Nayak stressed that executive authority cannot decide violation of laws and FCRA is in violation of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. “FCRA is just to regulate the recipients. Why are donors being regulated? Every action of executive authority should be subject to judicial review,” he said.

Nayak lamented that the rules are ambiguous as they do not specify what kind of activities could be taken by NGOs under FCRA. Ridiculing the provision of digitisation of records under FCRA, he said it was difficult for NGOs working in the remote areas of country.

Anand Grover, Senior Advocate and co-founder of Lawyers Collective (LC) came down heavily on the government for what he described as baseless charges against him and the LC. "I gave up foreign citizenship to work in this country. There is no activity that we have done against national interest. We are not dictated by funders or government. We work on issues of women rights, marginalised communities, sex workers and drug abuse," he said.

Grover alleged that there was a pattern to the witch hunting of NGOs working on human rights issues in the name of FCRA violations.

Taking a dig at the charges against LC, Grover cited many factual inaccuracies. “Indira Jaisingh (co founder of LC) is not a government servant. She is a senior counsel. I did not get any money. LC got the foreign funding. I was just reimbursed for certain expenses like the telephone bills,” he said.

Mona Mishra, Sexual Health Activist, urged the government for reinventing its relationship with society. She criticised the government for 'penalising' organisations like the LC working for marginalised sections.

Mishra alleged that there is no money for organsiations working for rights and government wants to silence them. Advocacy gets hit by such measures, she said. “When you hurt organization working for people, how many people you hurt?”

Paul Divakar, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, said that it is ironical that Home Ministry instead of the Social Welfare Ministry or the Ministry for Rural Development is dealing with the sector dedicated for social causes and development.

Divakar added that the state has failed to support the democratisation happening at the community level.

Source: http://southasia.oneworld.net/news/fcra-provisions-remind-of-emergency-era-civil-society#.V1wcIhJr_Mo

Ford Foundation formally conveyed ahead of Modi visit to US: All restrictions on foreign funding "removed"

By Rajiv Shah

Knowledgeable sources in the Gujarat government, citing information they had received from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), have said that the US-based philanthropic organization, Ford Foundation, has been formally conveyed that all restrictions placed on it under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) by the Government of India have been “removed”, and it could freely operate as a registered NGO in India.

“This happened just ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US”, the sources said, adding, “Under intense pressure from powerful lobbies in the US, Modi, apparently, wanted to convey it to President Barack Obama that he is not against foreign funding of NGOs, as it is being interpreted by some in India.”
This happened because, said the sources, strong lobbies were operating in the US, putting pressure on the White House to raise human rights issues with Modi, who landed in the US on June 7. “Had this happened, it would have meant a major embarrassment to Modi”, the sources said, adding, “Sensing trouble, the Centre acted quickly to formally tell Ford Foundation about the good news.

Sources also said, apart from Ford Foundation NGOs, lobbies at work in the US were in “direct touch” with some of the senior administrators and academics of educational institutions which received Ford Foundation funds – IIT Bombay, IIM Ahmedabad, National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia, GB Pant Social Science Institute and National Academy of Legal Studies and Research.

These insitutes wanted the Ford Foundation to “lift” all FCRA restrictions at the earliest, as, according to them, these were “affecting projects”, including those related with capacity building and technical assistance, feasibility for wireless broadband services to the rural poor, fellowships for international studies, and general research work.

The relations between the Ford Foundation and the Modi government began showing signs of thawing early this year, when it was taken off the 'prior permission' list. The 'prior approval' list comprises a group of organisations under government scanner for alleged 'anti-India' activities.

Soon thereafter, the Government of India “unblocked” foreign funds amounting to $150,000 to the Ford Foundation's Indian bank accounts, helping it to pay salaries to its staff.

Gujarat govt role: A little more than a year ago, the Gujarat government’s home department has asked the Government of India to seek an inquiry into the Ford Foundation’s grants to NGOs run by human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, fighting tens of 2002 communal riots cases.

In a letter addressed to the Union Home Ministry, the Gujarat government officially said action should be taken against the Ford Foundation, alleging that the it was "interfering in internal affairs" of the country and "abetting communal disharmony" through the NGO Sabrang Trust, run by well-known social activist Teesta Setalvad.

The complaint reportedly said, Setalvad’s NGO received $250,000 with allegations that she “embezzled” these funds given to her NGOs -- Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust. A CBI inquiry was instituted, her house was raided and an attempt to arrest her was made, but a Supreme Court order came in the way.

The Union home ministry placed Ford Foundation on its watch list and said that its funds would be routed with proper clearances.

Meanwhile, the Ford Foundation moved quickly to remove one of the technical glitches – it had been operating in India since 1952 as the only NGO which did not operate under the then Foreign Exchange Management Act, which required registration under the Indian Societies Act.

On registering as Indian NGO, in March this year, the Ford Foundation was taken off the "prior permission" list – a move that came just a few days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US for the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

Source: http://www.counterview.net/2016/06/ford-foundation-formally-conveyed-ahead.html

CSOs demand that government stop 'harassment' of NGOs

New Delhi, Jun 10 () Representatives of over 700 civil society organisations from across the country today demanded that government should stop "harassing" the NGOs working on people's issues by using FCRA and other regulatory mechanisms as tools.

They demanded that the regulatory framework for NGOs should be drawn along the lines of FEMA and should be a facilitating one rather than punitive. They also sought that the Home Affairs Ministry should not be the nodal authority for NGOs and asked for repeal of the FCRA.

"Government should stop arbitrary action against NGOs using FCRA as a tool and other regulatory tools like Income Tax to harass organisations.

"Also, the regulatory framework for NGOs needs to be looked at and it should be a facilitating framework rather than punitive along the lines the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) is. The FCRA is unconstitutional because it contravenes the freedom of right of expression and association. The FCRA must be repealed," said Biraj Patnaik, adviser to the Supreme Court commissioners on the right to food.

Asserting that the Ministry of Home Affairs should not be the nodal authority for NGOs, he said, "Because they do not understand development work. We demand setting up a separate ministry or give it to an aligned ministry which understands development like the Social Justice and Development or the Ministry of Rural Development."

Mathew Cherian, representing the Voluntary Action Network of India, termed the recent developments, in particular the use of FCRA to "target" organisations working on rights of marginal populations, as a "worrisome trend".

"Funding has dropped from Rs 13,500 crore to Rs 7500 crore. Can Rs 7500 crore destabilise a government?" he asked.

Venkatesh Nayak, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, said, "With the law getting increasingly geared towards restricting the capability of NGOs to receive foreign funds rather than facilitating them to work for the most marginalised, which is high on the agenda of the present government, it is clearly a case of no-win for all concerned."

Nayak said while the government is "hounding" NGOs on technical grounds by taking away their eligibility to receive foreign funding, political parties have approved an amendment permitting them to receive funding from foreign companies through their Indian subsidiaries with retrospective effect.

Speaking on behalf of the recently created CSO Support Cell, Patnaik said complaints are pouring in from every part of the country and there is an urgent need for a structured dialogue between the state and the CSOs on a wide range of issues pertaining to the framework of regulatory laws currently operational. PLB AAR ZMN AAR

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/CSOs-demand-that-government-stop-harassment-of-NGOs/articleshow/52694655.cms

'Foreign funds lifeline to NGOs, don't block it'

New Delhi, June 10 (IANS) Several representatives of a number of NGOs on Friday raised concern over the manner Prime Minister Narendra Modi deals with them when it comes to receiving foreign funds, and said they did not pose any security threat to the country.

They said on the one hand the government was trying to create a favourable economic environment for foreign investors in the country, and on the other it was restricting the ability of NGOs to contribute to the economic and social development and the empowerment of disadvantaged segments of society in the name of national security.

Mathew Cherian of the Voluntary Action Network of India, told a press conference here that the government was using the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to target organisations working to protect rights of marginal populations.

"It's a worrisome trend," he said.

Anand Grover of the Lawyers Collective said that people who steal crores of rupees were roaming scot-free whereas others who intend to utilise foreign funds for social work were being targeted.

"Tell us what wrong have we done in terms of work," he asked the government, adding that civil society organisations do not have any ill-feeling towards the government and would do everything required of them but they must not be harassed.

Paul Diwakar of the National Campaign on Dalit Rights said the law was being used to target selectively organisations committed to the cause of social justice.

Anjali Gopalan of NAZ Foundation also echoed the same views saying when it hurts organisation like Lawyers Collective, which had been majorly responsible for bringing to the fore issues that had been closeted for years, "it serves no purpose".

They were of the view that a concerted attempt was being made by the state to use the FCRA law to erode the credibility of leading and highly reputed NGOs.

"With the law getting increasingly geared towards restricting the capability of NGOs to receive foreign funds rather than facilitate them to work for the most marginalised, which is high on the agenda of the present government, it is clearly a case of no-win-win for all concerned," Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said.

Mona Mishra, an activist, supported the speakers saying that if this is an attempt to silence the voices of marginalised groups, we are committed to not let that happen.

"This is a struggle for our legitimate space in Indian democracy," she added.

The representatives also said that foreign funds they used to get have come down drastically affecting their work seriously.

They said according to government records, the various NGOs in the country received funding of Rs 13,600 crore from foreign countries during the financial year of 2013-14, which came down to Rs 7,600 during 2014-15.

This was affecting their social work, they said, adding that they were not indulging in any anti-national activities as was being alleged by the Modi government.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Foreign-funds-lifeline-to-NGOs-dont-block-it/articleshow/52692720.cms

NGO funding from foreign sources declined by half after government crackdown

Civil society organisations in Delhi came together to critique the implementation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

Foreign funding to Indian non-governmental organisations declined by half, from Rs 13,600 crore recorded in 2013-'14 to just Rs 7,600 crore in 2014-'15, according to an estimate by a coalition of more than 700 civil society organisations.

At an event in New Delhi on Friday to clarify their position on the implications of the government’s amendments to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, the groups claimed that the law was being used to intimidate potential dissidents.

“While there is a global recognition that the major strength and hope of India lie in its vibrant network of civil society organisation, we are today witnessing a concerted attempt being made by the state to use the FCRA law to erode the credibility of leading and highly reputed NGOs,” said Mathew Cherian, of Help Age International and chairperson of Voluntary Action Network India.

Anand Grover, a member of the Lawyers' Collective, the latest civil society organisation to have been targeted by the government crackdown, pointed out that foreign direct investment to business corporations was far higher than funds received through the act, which was passed in 1976 during the Emergency.

In April 2015, the government cancelled the registrations of almost 9,000 organisations for not having filed their returns. But in the finance bill of 2015, the government retrospectively amended the act to allow political parties to receive funds from Indian subsidiaries of foreign companies.

The Delhi High Court had in 2014 found that the Bhartiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress had violated the act by receiving funding from two subsidiaries of Vedanta. Source: http://scroll.in/latest/809781/punjab-government-wont-ban-udta-punjab-but-aap-is-trying-to-use-it-to-defame-the-state-akali-dal

Modi Regime Using FCRA to Block Aid Flow to Marginalised Communities, Say Activists

Because of reduced funding and suspended FCRA licences, many NGOs have had to shut down grassroots programmes.

New Delhi: Civil society organisations on Friday accused the Narendra Modi regime of creating a disabling environment for organisations that are “inconvenient for the government” and blocking crucial aid that was going to some of the most marginalised sections of society, particularly Dalits and Adivasis. Under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, licences of 10,557 NGOs have been cancelled in the last year. In addition, many organisations have been issued suspension orders or cancellation notices.

At a conference on the shrinking space for civil society and the changing regulatory environment, speakers talked about how the government has systematically sought to control the funding and working of NGOs. Due to the government’s actions, several NGO programmes at the grassroots level have had to be shut down.

Reduced funding

The Modi regime has said “don’t encourage donations” and “India wants to be a trade partner, not an aid partner,” speakers said. Unfortunately, this had meant that billions of rupees in funding, which could have gone towards strengthening marginalised communities who need and deserve this aid, has been blocked.

The quantum of funding of NGOs has dropped sharply from Rs 13,600 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 7,600 crore in 2014-15 (the figures for 2015-16 are yet to be compiled), said Mathew Cherian, chairman of the Voluntary Association Network of India, the largest federation of NGOs in the country.

Cherian said there are about 12.7 million people working in the 1.2 million development NGOs, which have made contributions ranging from the hand pumps to laws (such as the Right to Information Act and the Right to Education Act). “There are many NGOs doing a great service to this country, but this government has started creating a non-enabling environment. They began with FCRA and they have continued with tightening the tax laws,” he said.

He added that the Centre was making use of sections 12 and 13 of the FCRA which state that NGOs should not be participating in political activity. “If I work for Dalits or the marginalised, that is political activity. How can this sector survive such a thing? All around the world people say India has the best civil society, but this government is stifling the flow of funds to NGOs, while allowing [funds] freely for all other sectors.”

Donors are under pressure to not fund the NGOs, he added. “The Ford Foundation were asked not to donate, so that has stopped. Besides, there were 17 organisations which were put on another list where the RBI blocked their accounts. Many organisations now think India is not the right place to give [funds] due to these restrictions. Moreover, organisations now have to get MHA approval for every grant they make. Three more major funding organisations were put on the watchlist recently, so they too cannot fund without prior permission [from the home ministry],” said Cherian.

He also talked about how the impact is being felt on the ground, as nearly 50% of work has stopped. “Many NGOs in rural areas have not got their certificates renewed. This is an organised way of weeding out organisations they are not comfortable with.”

Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said the FCRA places discretion in the hands of decision makers because it does not define permissible activities but only has a list of activities that are not allowed. Also, he said, no one knows under which list – Centre, state or concurrent – it was drafted in 1977 or amended in 2010.

Nayak also wondered how the law is being used to prevent donations from coming in, since the FCRA regulates the recipients of foreign contributions and not the donors, who are mostly based outside the territorial jurisdiction of India.

Anand Grover, senior advocate and founder of advocacy and law firm Lawyers Collective, which had their FCRA licence suspended by the Ministry of Home Affairs, said his organisation would not take the blow lying down. “We will be furnishing a reply within the 30 day period and will challenge it,” he said.

Targeting “inconvenient” organisations

Grover said a comparison between the Foreign Exchange Mainternance Act, which deals with corporate investment, and the FCRA 2010, which deals with donations to NGOs, is very important. “FEMA deals with corporate investments and interests. The corporate sector will get a seat on any table of the government, they can lobby without any questions asked. Are we saying that the corporates are working totally in national interest?” he asked.

Anand Grover. Credit: Twitter/Anand Grover

While the government has been taking credit for the work done by NGOs, it has been unnecessarily harsh on those it perceives to be inconvenient. “In his recent speech, union health minister J.P. Nadda has spoken about access to medicines which are available to HIV positive people at affordable rates. Who did that case? Lawyers Collective. Who won that case for the government? Lawyers Collective. They are priding themselves on that and we are told that you are paid by Novartis, you can’t appear for them. Where did they get that from? Nowhere. It is just that I say so, so that is a law. But where is the law? There is no answer,” said an agitated Grover, questioning the Centre.

Similarly, he said, noted lawyer Indira Jaising has been targeted on the complaint of a politician who said she is a government servant and therefore can’t receive foreign funds. “First of all, she is not a government servant. Has she received foreign contributions? No. Lawyers Collective has. She has only received remuneration from Lawyer’s Collective for work done as senior counsel. It is not in conflict of interest with any law because she has taken permission and because she has been working on women’s rights, which the government wants us to do. But if they don’t like you, they will discredit you,” he said, talking about the Centre’s approach.

Remembering how he had given up British citizenship to serve the country, Grover said that though his NGO has been targeted, it still continues to work for the government and advise it on crucial issues. “Even today we are willing to give advise if the government asks for it. We do not see it as a political party. Even on Mr. Nadda’s speech we guided him. We will not look at the colour of the party, because you are the government. We believe if an elected government has come to power, they deserve our support for the work that has to be done.”

Stating that 80% of Lawyers Collective’s funding was coming from abroad, he said though its work has got impacted, it would continue to work on core issues like women’s rights and right of marginalised communities.

Shutting down programmes

Biraj Patnaik of the Civil Society Organisation Support Cell said that when government cancelled licences of 9,000 organisations in March last year, letters were written to the prime minister and home minister, but there was no response. However, he noted, whenever NGOs with cancelled or suspended licences approached the courts, they got very favourable orders. “So I would say that the need of the hour is a structured dialogue between the government and the civil society,” he said. He also pointed out that the big worry now is about the renewal process, as there is no transparency, no grounds are being given for renewals or rejections and no prescribed time limit for the clearances.

Biraj Patnaik. Credit: YouTube

In response to a question, Patnaik said that while it is a fact that the money for corporate social responsibility has gone up after the FCRA Act was introduced, a lion’s share of this funding goes to the foundations set up by big companies. Also, it is dependent on net profits, which can be manipulated. “Besides, it can only be used for certain purposes. So the money for building toilets has gone up but funding for right of food has gone down. There is nothing for rights of sex workers because the corporates do only the comfortable things,” he said.

Sexual health activist Mona Mishra said that in the absence of funding, most NGOs have been forced to lay off staff and stop programmes. She said the government desperately needs to reinvent its relationship with civil society. “Just about every transformative change has been brought about by the people on the ground, be it women’s empowerment, rape law, environmental activism, HIV/AIDS or access to medicines. None of this would have happened had people not worked on the ground. Change does not occur by lording over people working on the ground,” Mishra said.

Paul Divakar of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights made a fervent appeal for allowing funds to come in so that the marginalised communities do not continue to suffer. “The state has failed in its responsibility to support the real democratisation happening at the community or panchayat level. Tribal and Dalit budgets are diverted. As much as Rs 37,000 crore for Dalits and Rs 17,000 crore for tribals is diverted every year. Today, we are a nation because of the strength of civil society that is contributing to these areas. It was only in the last decade that we began getting some funds from abroad, but now these restrictions will come in the way again. We say we are the largest democracy, but please let that democracy reach the communities which are on the margins,” he said. Source: http://thewire.in/2016/06/11/modi-regime-using-fcra-to-block-aid-flow-to-marginalised-communities-say-activists-42261/

Govt harassing us in the name of FCRA law, allege NGOs

NGOs claimed they had the support of 700 civil society organisations

Several big-ticket non-government organisations (NGOs) came together in Delhi on Friday to demand that the government should use the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) to regulate and not harass and intimidate civil society groups.

The NGOs included Voluntary Action Network of India (VANI), one of the largest umbrella organisation of NGOs working on issues of civil society, National Campaign for Dalit Rights, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), NAZ foundation and Lawyers Collective, on which the government recently imposed a ban on receiving foreign funds.

They claimed they had the support of 700 civil society organisations and a vast networks. They announced the setting up of a Support Cell for Civil Society Organisations to deal with the issues arising out of government’s application of FCRA and tax regulations.

The civil society groups noted that the funding received by NGOs had dropped to less than half between 2013-14 and 2014-15, according to the annual report of the home ministry.

They pointed out the new rules for the FCRA had been notified in December 2015, doing away with the positive list of activities that are permissible using foreign funds, leaving absolute discretion in the hands of the government to give or deny FCRA licences.

Venkatesh Nayak of CHRI said the government had proposed categories such as human rights, caste discrimination, child rights and others as areas that NGOs could work on with foreign funds. But after consultations, the government in its final notification dropped the positive list. “Enormous discretion has been placed in the hands of the government...,” he said.

Mathew Cherian of VANI said there was a case of donors being told to not provide funds to civil society groups as well as NGOs being hauled up on minor technical grounds.

Mona Mishra, who works with the HIV community, said the government move has chocked the fund pipeline.

Anand Grover, trustee of the Lawyers Collective, and Indira Jaisingh claimed the NGO would fight the case in court and that it had done nothing wrong. He said Jaisingh had worked as a public servant and not a government servant so was entitled to be paid remuneration for her work at the Lawyers Collective. Grover said while allegations had been made against him for misappropriation of funds, he had only taken reimbursement, such as those for telephones, while at work abroad for work relating to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Right to Health, which was part of assignment undertaken by the collective.

Source: http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/govt-harassing-us-in-the-name-of-fcra-law-allege-ngos-116061000828_1.html

Cancellation of FCRA licences to NGOs: Civil groups slam Central govt

Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said the rules framed under the FCRA were “against the principles of natural justice”

A group of civil society organisations Friday slammed the central government for allegedly “targeting organisations working for the rights of marginal populations”. During a press conference, held by the Support Cell for Civil Society Organisations, the activists said the suspension and cancellation of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) licences of over 10,500 NGOs was “blocking billions in funds, which would have helped in strengthening of democratisation at grassroots level”.

Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said the rules framed under the FCRA were “against the principles of natural justice”. “The law is arbitrary and it gives authority to the government to suppress voices of dissent,” said Nayak.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, part of the NGO Lawyers Collective whose FCRA licence was recently suspended, claimed the developments showed the “hypocrisy” of the government.

Paul Divakar, from the National Campaign for Dalit Rights, claimed that the “State has failed in its responsibility to strengthen democratisation of the marginalised communities”. He claimed that the central government was blocking access of Dalit and tribal groups to the resources brought in by NGOs.

The organisations also raised questions on the legality of the bans imposed on donors and the “watchlists” created by the Union Home Ministry. “FCRA is to regulate recipients of foreign funds. Under what law are they passing orders against the donors,” asked Biraj Patnaik of the CSO Support Cell.

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/cancellation-of-fcra-licences-to-ngos-civil-groups-slam-central-govt-2846439/

‘Use FCRA only for regulation’

Civil society says work among marginalised sections worst hit, foreign funding dips 50%

New Delhi, June 10:

Over 700 civil society organisations on Friday said the use of the Foreign Currency Regulation Act (FCRA) by the government had brought down their foreign funding by 50 per cent (from over ₹14,000 crore in 2013-14 to over ₹7,000 crore now) in the past two years, impacting their work among the marginalised sections, such as Dalits, tribals, the elderly, women, HIV/AIDS affected, among others.

Addressing a joint press conference here, Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, accused the government of practising “double standards” by targeting NGOs on technical grounds and taking away their eligibility for foreign funding, while approving an amendment to allow political parties to receive foreign funds.

While admitting that the NGO sector does need regulation, Nayak questioned why the FCRA proposed jail sentence in some cases, whereas the Foreign Exchange Management Act for corporates had no jail sentence for a single offence.

Calling for a structured dialogue on the issue with the government, food rights activist Biraj Patnaik said 300 civil society organisations had written to the Home Ministry and the Prime Minister, but there had been no response.

CSR funds

Squeezed for funds as even foreign donors were under pressure or on a ‘watch list’, the sector said it was turning to Indian donors to carry on their work, such as corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds.

But the lion’s share of CSR funds is going to corporate foundations, to building toilets and the list of permissible activities, not for Dalit, tribal, food, gender or health rights, Patnaik added. Mathew Cherian of Helpage India, representing the Voluntary Action Network of India, said the attempt to “erode the credibility” of NGOs was a “worrisome trend”, as most of India’s civil society organisations had got global recognition for their work to strengthen democracy.

“There are about 1.2 million NGOs in India and about 12.7 million people work in the sector. Civil society has made a huge contribution to strengthening democracy by fighting for Right to Information, Right to Education, access to cheaper medicines, among others,” he said.

The organisations said the worst hit were smaller grassroots NGOs that work in remote areas. “It is only over the last 10 years that the Dalit community has been able to access foreign contribution resources for empowerment and welfare,” said Paul Divakar of the National Campaign for Dalit Rights.

Representing Lawyers Collective, whose licence was cancelled recently, its founding member Anand Grover said: “Why is the government cracking down on NGOs while allowing corporates to get any amount of foreign funds? They get seats in government and can do any amount of lobbying. Do all of them serve the national interest?”

(This article was published on June 10, 2016)

Source: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/use-fcra-only-for-regulation/article8714980.ece

Friday, June 10, 2016

‘Civil society in India remains vibrant’

But there is evidence of a problem regarding its FCRA regulations, and reason to be concerned, says UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai.

The Central government has acted against a number of NGOs in India in the past two years for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. In a recent analysis report, the UN Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, said the FCRA regulations in India do not meet the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ (ICCPR) proportionality requirement. In an e-mail interview with T.K. Rohit, Mr. Kiai said “there are currently serious obstacles to the right to freedom of association that violate international law.” Excerpts from the interview:

Do you think there is enough evidence to be concerned about India’s FCRA regulations?

Clearly there is evidence of a problem, and reason to be concerned. I have received a number of reports over the years from activists and organisations who feel that they have been targeted by the government. I have an equally clear sense that they feel their space to operate freely is closing.

Is the Indian government stifling NGOs?

I believe there are currently serious obstacles to the right to freedom of association that violate international law, and that these obstacles have increased in recent years. I have received a number of complaints about this issue from Indian organisations, and the volume has grown since I began working as Special Rapporteur. I also know that there is quite a lot of activity and debate around this issue in India, with some sources reporting tens of thousands of NGOs losing their licences to receive foreign funding.

At the same time, civil society in India remains vibrant — at least for the moment. India is very important in the UN context. It is the world’s biggest democracy and has a massive and vibrant civil society. India is seen as a leader for other countries, but unfortunately in this area it is leading in the wrong direction.

Your report points out that the FCRA appears to contravene India’s obligations under the ICCPR. What measures can India take in this regard?

There are three possibilities. The first, which can be done tomorrow, is to be more permissive in interpretation of the law. The second, which would take legislative action, is to repeal the law. The third is for a domestic court to find the law unconstitutional or in violation of international law.

Even a democracy and its legislative institutions have to respect the international obligations of the state.

Can’t a country mandate that organisations raise funds internally?

Under international law, governments clearly can’t put a blanket restriction on organisations receiving any foreign funding. Such restrictions are inherently disproportionate. I would also add that the Government of India is a massive player when it comes to overseas development aid — both as a donor and a recipient. Why should it be okay for the government to receive and donate funds, but not for independent organisations?

What’s the way forward?

At the very least, I would like to have a dialogue with the Government of India. They have yet to officially respond to the analysis I submitted, but I would like to hear their views. This dialogue can be formal, informal, or something in between.

The best-case scenario would be for India to invite me to conduct an official country visit, where I can meet with government officials and civil society in person. I requested such a visit in 2014, but the government is yet to respond. I would also be very open to conducting an unofficial visit to the country. In fact, I’ve tried to do this at least twice, but was never able to secure a visa. I would take it as a positive sign of engagement if the Government of India could step in to help facilitate the visa process, so that I can come to the country at least in an unofficial capacity.

And ultimately, of course, I would like to see the Government of India — whether via the executive, legislative or judicial branch — act on my analysis and make the appropriate adjustments to the FCRA.

rohit.tk@thehindu.co.in

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/interview-with-un-special-rapporteur-on-rights-to-freedom-of-peaceful-assembly-and-of-association-maina-kiai-civil-society-in-india-remains-vibrant/article8706215.ece

Action against NGOs

It is a matter of concern that the government has taken action against many NGOs and activists since coming to power (“Civil society in India remains vibrant”, June 9). Maina Kiai makes a pertinent point where he asks: if the Government of India can receive so much foreign aid and so many grants, why can’t independent organisations? NGOs have proven their relevance by helping the poor, the destitute, and the marginalised. The government’s attack on NGOs is a self-goal in India’s development efforts. Instead of blocking foreign funding, the Modi government should evolve an acceptable framework for enforcing norms of transparency and accountability regarding the utilisation of such funds. The government and the NGOs must cooperate rather than confront each other.

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/action-against-ngos/article8710674.ece

Foreign-funded NGOs; a law unto themselves

Yet another foreign-funded NGO finds itself in trouble. Lawyers’ Collective, an NGO headed by a former Additional Solicitor General in the UPA Government, Indira Jaising was last week barred from receiving foreign funds for six months following investigations which revealed a gross abuse of funds for extraneous purposes.

Also, its registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act was cancelled. Predictably, the response of Jaising was that the action against LC was mala-fide and an attempt to crush dissent. The left-liberal sections saw a pattern in the temporary ban on the LC under the FCRA, linking the ban to the larger campaign by the government against marginalized and oppressed sections, such as students, activists, academics, etc.

Instead of answering specific charges about the misuse of foreign funds and of pursuing political objectives, there was a clear effort to obfuscate the issue by blaming the government for wanting to neutralize all its critics. Such a response would have carried conviction neither had LC categorically stated that it had not strayed from its listed objectives nor had it misappropriated funds.

If the Union Home Ministry after a thoroughgoing investigation came to the conclusion that Jaising wrongly used funds for travelling abroad or foreign funds were used for purely political purposes, blaming the action against the LC on the government’s alleged bias against left-liberal NGOs would convince no one. Yes, the government could have handled the case against Greenpeace, another foreign-funded NGO, more tactfully.

But its lack of public relations savvy did not negate the fact that it too was in violation of the FCRA. The problem with foreign-funded NGOs is that they have become a law unto themselves, claiming a monopoly over superior wisdom and truth and having pretentions of saving the ignorant and poor Indians from themselves. Such arrogance, fuelled, no doubt, by a free flow of foreign funds, looks askance at anyone who questions the conduct of the NGO entrepreneurs.

Professional defenders of civil liberties seem to believe that the society owes them a debt of gratitude. The truth is that they owe the society a lot for finding them well-paid vocations. Flow of foreign funds into various NGOs often raises valid questions about the legitimacy of donors’ intentions and about the recipients’ sincerity. It is no use complaining that the Government has acted against Greenpeace or against Teesta Setalvad’s NGO.

Pursuing cases related to the 2002 Gujarat riots was a legitimate objective. Setalvad would have been worthy of praise had she refrained from misusing the funds received in her NGO. But she sullied her copybook by allegedly misappropriating funds for her own and her family members’ personal use and on luxury items. Abuse of charity is a crime against the very society she claims to be defending against the communal marauders.

Jaising too would like one to believe that her NGO has been barred because she was out to pin down Amit Shah in the fake encounter death of Sohrabuddin and others. Inventing such delusory linkages in order to excuse one’s own breach of FCRA does not show the former law officer of the UPA Government in good light. Lobbying MPs and misspending foreign funds for the purpose was a clear violation of the objectives for which these were allowed.

Also, LC could not justify payments for renta-crowd demonstrations. Jaising and her husband, Anand Grover, helped themselves to handsome fees from the LC account for professional work undertaken to further the LC’s objectives. In other words, the two were hired hands, seemingly doing social work for the greater good of the people. Crying foul when caught with their hands in the till is common to all NGOwallas. From Setalvad to Jaising, everyone found misusing funds has sought to blame the Modi Government’s illiberal agenda for their troubles.

While they claim to be fighting for the people, for their democratic rights and entitlements, Modi, it seems, was out to put out of business all social activists, civil libertywallas by seeking to push India into a one party authoritarian rule. Such self-serving arguments ill-serve those who fatten themselves on foreign donations and push what are essentially suspect foreign agendas.

Source: http://thenorthlines.com/foreign-funded-ngos-law-unto/

Govt shows action rod to truant NGOs

According to reports the Home Ministry is verifying the accounts of some NGOs which were allegedly indulging in unauthenticated activities like religious conversion

The Centre on Wednesday warned of action against non-governmental organisations (NGOs) spending foreign contributions in unauthenticated activities like religious conversion.

“This is not an issue of communal conversion. But, we go according to FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) rules, which NGOs need to abide by. If there are violations, there has to be action. Our purpose is to ensure that money of NGOs should be spent for purposes mentioned by them," Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told reporters in Delhi.

He was replying to a question on reports that government plans to take action against some NGOs which were allegedly involved in religious conversion.

According to reports the Home Ministry is verifying the accounts of some NGOs which were allegedly indulging in unauthenticated activities like religious conversion.

The reports suggested 18 foreign donors had been identified who help such NGOs.

According to a Home Ministry statistics, altogether Rs 13,051 crore foreign contribution was received by 17,616 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country in 2013-14.

Rs 11,527 crore foreign funds were received by 20,497 NGOs in 2012-2013 and Rs 11,558 crore was received by 22,747 NGOs in 2011-2012.

NGOs are required to seek registration or prior permission under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 to receive foreign contribution. Source: http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/govt-shows-action-rod-to-truant-ngos-116060801136_1.html

Court grants bail to MHA official Anand Joshi in FCRA case

The court directed Joshi not to leave Ghaziabad and Delhi till the time investigation is over.

New Delhi: A special court on Tuesday granted bail to Home Ministry official Anand Joshi, who was arrested for allegedly issuing FCRA notices arbitrarily to several NGOs for financial gains, observing that the accused cannot be put in jail for an indefinite period.

Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar gave the relief to Joshi, who was an under secretary in the Home Ministry, on furnishing of a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and two sureties of the like amount.

Source: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/070616/court-grants-bail-to-mha-official-anand-joshi-in-fcra-case.html

FCRA notices to NGOs: Court grants bail to MHA official Anand Joshi

New Delhi: A special court Tuesday granted bail to Home Ministry official Anand Joshi, who was arrested for allegedly issuing FCRA notices arbitrarily to several NGOs for financial gains, observing that the accused cannot be put in jail for an indefinite period.

Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar gave the relief to Joshi, who was an under secretary in the Home Ministry, on furnishing of a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and two sureties of the like amount.

"Accusations are serious but the accused cannot be put in jail for an indefinite period. Considering that he is not likely to abscond, bail is granted to the accused," the judge said.

The court imposed several bail conditions on the accused while cautioning him "if CBI makes any complaint that he is trying to contact/influence any NGO or witness, the court will cancel the bail."

The court directed Joshi not to leave Ghaziabad and Delhi till the time investigation is over and also asked him to deposit his passport with the investigating officer (IO).

It, however, said that in case of any emergency, he can leave for Ranchi, where his parents reside, after taking the court's prior permission.

"He will not try to influence any witness or to contact any of the NGOs being probed," the court said.

During the arguments on the bail plea, the court observed that Joshi's conduct was doubtful as he had earlier fled as per CBI's allegation.

The court also asked Joshi to make his presence before the IO every Monday.

Joshi sought bail, saying that he was not in a condition to influence any witness or NGO and that he has been transferred from the Home Ministry.

Opposing the plea, CBI said that if granted bail, Joshi could threaten witnesses as he was in an influential capacity.

It also submitted that a large number of NGOs were required to be investigated and there were apprehensions that he could abscond.

While seeking bail, Joshi said neither the files nor the NGOs were under his control and he could not even touch those documents. He added he will not flee if granted the relief.

Joshi, who was arrested from west Delhi on May 15, was presently under judicial custody.

CBI had earlier claimed that files relating to several NGOs had gone missing from the Home Ministry and they were recovered from his house although he was not supposed to take them away.

Source: http://zeenews.india.com/news/india/fcra-notices-to-ngos-court-grants-bail-to-mha-official-anand-joshi_1892564.html

3 American Grant Providers Added To Indian Government's 'Watch List': Report

NEW DELHI -- Three American grant-giving organisations are on the Indian government's "watch-list", and will have to get clearance from the Indian home ministry before providing any funds to NGOs here, reported The Times of India.

These include the Open Society Foundation (OSF), World Movement for Democracy (WMD), and National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Unnamed sources told TOI that these NGOs have been put under MHA's "prior permission category" after they gave funds to an "unregistered NGO". HuffPost India has reached out to all three organisations for a response.

These three grant providers are the latest in a growing list of foreign funders who are under the Indian government's "prior permission" list. The 15 other foreign aid organisations in this list include Greenpeace International and Ford Foundation,

The OSF's mission statement is "to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people." It has given grants across the world in areas of public health, business development, and education, among others. It was started by philanthropist George Soros "to help countries make the transition from communism".

Meanwhile, WMD comprises a global network of activists, practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and funders who come together "to advance democracy". According to the organisation's website, "Participants actively engage in or support struggles to open closed societies, challenge dictatorships, democratize semi-authoritarian systems, consolidate emerging democracies, and reform and invigorate established democracies both old and new."

The NED operates on similar lines, giving grants to individuals and organisations to help with "the growth and strengthening" of democracies across the world.

Earlier last month, the US ambassador to India Richard Verma said that the government's crackdown on NGOs would have a "chilling effect" on civil society.

"I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by NGOs operating in India," Verma told journalists. "Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs."

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/06/08/american-grant-indian-watch_n_10348968.html

3 US donors on MHA watchlist, face fund curbs

NEW DELHI: At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in United States to consolidate strategic ties, the ministry of home affairs has put under the 'watchlist' three major US-based donors under the Foreign Contributions Registration Act, 2010, sources have told TOI.

The three major NGOs - Open Society Foundation (OSF), World Movement for Democracy and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are now in the watchlist, also called "prior permission category" of MHA, which means that these donors cannot extend any financial assistance to any registered or unregistered NGO/organisation or individual without clearance from the ministry.

The development comes even as MHA, by end of June, is set to decide the fate of Teesta Setalvad's NGO's Sabrang Trust. Sources say, the trust is most likely going to see its licence cancelled making it ineligible to receive any foreign funding.

An official said that "the three US-based NGOs may have indulged in giving funds to any unregistered NGO in India which led to the action". "They are foreign donors and putting them under watchlist doesn't mean that they can't fund any more but banks have to now inform MHA about any transfers made by them in India," the officer added.

Emails sent to OSF, World Movement for Democracy and NED from TOI went unanswered.

The number of major foreign donors under government's watchlist is now eighteen. Earlier Greenpeace International, Climate Work Foundation, Ford Foundation and CORDAID among others were in the list. Ford was earlier this year removed from the watchlist.

An official said that "MHA doesn't act upon its own. Such issues of funding, which could be termed illegal as per Indian laws, are often flagged to us by intelligence agencies, state police, banks etc and then a decision is taken to streamline funding from the donors".

The move to include three US-based donors in the list comes even after US ambassador to India Richard Verma expressed "concern" over the "potentially chilling effects" of the regulatory steps taken against NGOs in the country. His comments had come on the backdrop of regulatory action taken against several NGOs, including Ford Foundation. Representatives of Ford Foundation also met Nripendra Misra, principal secretary to the Prime Minister, on several occasions to put forth their position on the issue.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/3-US-donors-on-MHA-watchlist-face-fund-curbs/articleshow/52646039.cms

Know from where NGOs are getting foreign funds to promote religious conversion, stoke communal tension

New Delhi: Several foreign-funded Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs) are involved in religious conversion in India.

According to Intelligence agencies, while some NGOs are working in the country to promote religious conversion, many are also involved in flaring up communal tension.

Around 18 foreign donors have been identified who have been constantly funding these NGOs. As per the details available, two each donors have been identified from the US, South Korea and Europe.

The NGOs believed to be involved in conversion are active in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.

According to a Home Ministry report, Rs 12,980 crore reached NGOs from the foreign donors in 2013-14, out of which some part was meant for religious conversion.

Last year, a total of 69 NGOs were blacklisted by the government from receiving foreign funds.

Informing the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju had said among those NGOs which were prohibited from receiving the foreign funds include 14 from Andhra Pradesh, 12 from Tamil Nadu, five each from Gujarat and Odisha, four each from Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala and three from Delhi.

Source: http://zeenews.india.com/news/india/know-from-where-ngos-are-getting-foreign-funds-to-promote-religious-conversion-stoke-communal-tension_1892877.html

As India Aged, 32% of the Elderly got 71% of Government Money

'Will not tolerate misuse of funds by NGOs'

BENGALURU: NON-governmental organisations misusing funds will not be tolerated, said Women and Child Development Minister Umashree.

Taking part in the fourth meeting of the Rehabilitation Council of India, South Zonal Coordination Committee, on Monday, Umashree said that both the Centre and the State will take strong action against such NGOs.

Thawarchand Gehlot, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment called upon parents of children suffering from hearing loss to apply for Cochlear Implants made available by the government under a new scheme at the event.

“The implants will generally be successful only for children below 5 years and it is important that children in this age group benefit from the scheme,” he said.

During the year 2014-2015, six lakh people with disabilities have benefited from various government welfare schemes, of which 352 were given Cochlear implants, the Women and Child Development minister added.

A total of 46,000 people are regularly given training stipends ranging between `2,000 to `3,000.

“Loans were also given to the handicapped at 4 per cent interest per annum to enable them to stand on their own,” he said.

“It gave immense satisfaction to their parents to see them become self-dependent,” the minister added.

Source: http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/Will-not-tolerate-misuse-of-funds-by-NGOs/2016/06/07/article3470064.ece

Monday, June 6, 2016

Marginal Tax Relief: S.12AA registration not to be cancelled

Most of us are aware that charitable institutions functioning under the remainder clause (i.e. advancement of objects of General Public Utility) are always worried that their income from sources which could be treated as from commerce, trade or business should not cross the lakshman rekha of 20% of total income (earlier this was a fixed monetary limit of Rs 25 lakh). If they crossed this limit, Income Tax officers generally would move application to cancel the registration under S. 12AA of such an entity.

CBDT has now issued instructions to all Income Tax Officers vide a circular[1] that in case a charitable institute crosses this limit, then while its income for that year would not be treated as charitable and would be subjected to taxation, however its registration for that year will not be cancelled. Therefore in case, the next year, the income remains within the permissible limit, the entity will be treated as charitable for that year.

The circular also states that above is important so that such one-time taxation of a charitable institution should not result in unintended taxation on accreted income under S. 115TD[2], which could result in additional tax liabilities.

NGO PARTNERSHIP SYSTEM (NGO-PS portal)- NGOS Required to Update PAN Card Of the NGOs

All the VOs/NGOs who have already signed-up with the NGO-PS portal are required to provide the PAN of the organization (not of any individual) and upload scanned image of the PAN card urgently on the portal. Your account will not be activated until your Pan Verification process is complete. The following steps may be followed to provide details of PAN.

Step 1: Login into NGO-PS Portal.

(Following will appear in the screen)

· Add/Update your Pan card details.

· Field for organisation’s PAN number.

· Field for uploading scanned copy of PAN card.

· Field for mobile number of authorised person.

Step 2: Enter PAN number in provided field.

Step 3. Upload scanned copy of PAN card of the organisation in the provided field. ( only PDF/JPG files are allowed. Max size 2 MB).

Step 4: Enter mobile no. of authorised contact person in provided field

Step 5: Click on Submit button.

· After submission the following message will appear on the screen:

Your PAN details are recorded successfully. Your account will be activated within 48 hrs. In case of discrepancy, account will remain deactivated.

· For further queries, please Contact: 011-23042324 / 011-23042326

Step 6: Logout.

What is NGO Partnership System

NGO Partnership System – NGOs/VOs are requested to Signup on NGO partnership system Portal NGOs in India

The NGO Partnership System (NGO-PS) is a web portal maintained by Planning Commission of India,NITI Aayog gathering the List of NGOs Across the India,This useful to interface between Voluntary Organization (VO)/Non Governmental Organization (NGO) and key Ministries ,Departments and Government Bodies.

This portal http://ngo.india.gov.in/ invites all Voluntary Organizations (VOs)/ Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to Sign Up on this system. The portal facilitates List of VOs/NGOs to figure in the database system of the Voluntary Sector maintained by NITI Aayog and also helps them to apply online for Governments Grants under various schemes of the below mentioned Ministries/Departments/Governments Bodies.

Participating Ministries/Departments/Government Bodies in NGO partnership System in india
Ministry of Culture
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment
Ministry of Tribal Affairs
Ministry of Women & Child Development
Department of Higher Education
Department of School Education & Literacy
National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO)
Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART)
Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB)
Department of Youth Affairs

All Non governmental organizations (NGOs),Voluntary organizations are requested to Sign Up (one time) with the Portal for Indian NGO database to access information on various schemes of the participating Ministries/ Departments/ Government Bodies open for grants.If NGOs signup in this portal provides unique id Code,this code is useful to apply online for government grants to the participating Ministries/Departments/Government Bodies and track the status of your applications through this system.

Note ;- Before applying grant to SCHEME OF BUILDING GRANTS by Ministry of Culture, also need to NGOs/VOs have NGO partnership system Unique Id.

Click here To Signup on Ngo partnership system in Government ngo portal of India. : http://ngo.india.gov.in/auth/default.php

Technology drives home govt’s NGO battle

NEW DELHI: The Centre cut down the number of NGOs registered to receive foreign funding by one-fourth in the last one year, shortening the list to 33,500. But it is technology, not ideology that is driving the crackdown.

More than 10,000 NGOs lost their licence for not filing their annual declaration of money received under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) 2010.

Lawyers Collective, which lost its FCRA registration this week is an exception to this pattern. Like Greenpeace India, it came under the government’s scanner after it spoke out against the government or its policies.

The 2010 FCRA law requires NGOs to declare how much money they have received from abroad each year. The tax returns need to be submitted even if no money has been received in a particular year.

Many of these NGOs didn’t file their returns but managed to retain their registration as the ministry was never too sure if its own records were in order.

For instance, when the ministry tried to purge NGOs that hadn’t filed their returns in 20052006, they were left red-faced as many NGOs turned up with proof that the government had goofed up. After that incident, a group of young officers at the ministry were tasked to put their house in order.

The first step was to computerise its operations and create an e-database of registered NGOs. If an NGO filed its returns, it was to reflect in this database.

Though not a perfect system, it was a precursor to the online registration system made mandatory last year, requiring NGOs to file returns online.

After the new government came in, the ministry again sent out notices to over 10,000 NGOs. Only 229 NGOs responded.

The ministry decided to spare them till it examined their representation and cancelled the registration of the rest.

A ministry official said the exercise to scrub the list of registered NGOs will continue. Of the remaining 33,000 entities registered under FCRA, official said there were another 10,000 that had not been filing their returns and will face action.

Source: http://www.hindustantimes.com/nation/technology-drives-home-govt-s-ngo-battle/story-jRAvTjWfg1cLpZryPSIozH.html

Saturday, May 28, 2016

NGOs should look beyond CSR funding when engaging with companies: CII

LUCKNOW: CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) (http://www.cii.in)Foundation in partnership with the Resource Alliance India recently organised a workshop in Lucknow which aimed at building capacities of NGOs on different aspects of the CSR legislation and for facilitating dialogue with corporates to explore potential avenues of collaboration.

Year 2016 being the third year of the legislation, most companies which have their CSR policies in place have overcome the teething issues and are all geared up to implement their CSR plans. "Therefore this was considered as a perfect time to help NGOs in preparing roadmap to approach companies for building partnership and helping them understand the language of companies. We also need to tell them how to approach and build sustainable partnerships with companies", said CII.

To achieve this, CII Foundation has organised workshops in different parts of the country towards training NGOs and calibrating their perception towards corporate engagement. Lucknow's workshop was a part of the series.

The key points discussed in the workshops were that for successful partnership, it is imperative for NGOs and companies to have alignment of goals and objectives. "NGO-corporate engagement should not only be looked through the point of CSR funding, rather partnerships can be built on other aspects like volunteering, payroll giving, sponsorship for special events and other innovative partner based interventions. Outcome, impact and scale are some of the key parameters for companies when scouting for projects", recommended CII in the workshop.

The workshop included interaction with companies like CP Milk and Food Products, TCS, Tata Motors and Reliance along with sharing of successful partnership case studies and a tutorial session on building and sustaining partnerships.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/NGOs-should-look-beyond-CSR-funding-when-engaging-with-companies-CII/articleshow/52470865.cms

Why has the Nirbhaya Fund not been used: SC to Centre

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to the Central and all the states government questioning the non-utilization of the Nirbhaya Fund introduced in the year 2012.

The Supreme Court asked why the Rs 2000 crore corpus was not being utilised and disbursed among victims of sexual offences. It also sought response from the Centre and States on forming a national plan for providing compensation to rape victims and witness protection programme.

The Nirbhaya Fund was introduced in the 2013 budget speech by the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram after the December 16 gang rape which sent a reverberating nationwide protest demanding a revolutionized governmental system for the protection of women all over India.

The Nirbhaya Fund is expected to support initiatives by different NGOs and the government in protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India.

Source: http://www.newsx.com/national/29955-why-has-the-nirbhaya-fund-not-been-used-sc-to-centre

Nirbhaya Fund: SC asks Centre why Rs 2,000 crore corpus not being disbursed among sexual offence victims

Supreme Court asks all state governments to respond within 6 weeks.

The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a notice to the Centre and all state governments questioning the non-utilization of the Nirbhaya Fund introduced in 2012.

The apex court asked as to why Rs 2,000 crore corpus was not being utilised and disbursed among the victims of sexual offences. It also sought response from the Centre and states on forming a national plan for providing compensation to rape victims and witness protection programme.

All state governments have been asked to respond within six weeks.

The bench passed the order after senior advocate Indira Jaisingh, assisting the Supreme Court in a case arising from nine PILs on the issue, pleaded that the states were not giving necessary information to her.

"The states were supposed to set up one-stop crisis centres in each district. As many as 653 such crisis centres were supposed to be in place across the country, but they have not provided information whether they had done so," Jaisingh said.

She submitted that the state governments should be directed to pay reasonable compensation to the victims as some were giving as little as Rs. 25,000.

The apex court had made Jaisingh amicus curiae in the 2012 Nipun Saxena case.

Saxena, a law student, had after the December 16 gang-rape case in2012 filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the apex court, questioning the constitutional validity of the two-finger test and had questioned about the formation of a victim's compensation board as per a 1996 Supreme Court directive.

Nirbhaya Fund was announced by Government of India in its 2013 Union Budget. According to the then finance minister P. Chidambaram, this fund is expected to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India.

Source: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-nirbhaya-fund-sc-asks-centre-why-rs-2000-crore-corpus-not-being-disbursed-among-sexual-offence-victims-2216814

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

MHA officer sent to judicial custody till June 6

A special court today sent an MHA official to jail till June 6 for allegedly issuing FCRA notices arbitrarily to several NGOs for financial gains after CBI submitted that his further custodial interrogation was not required in the case.

Special CBI Judge Vinod Kumar sent accused Anand Joshi, under secretary in the Home Ministry, to 14-day judicial remand after he was produced before the court on expiry of his CBI custody.

In its application before the court, the CBI submitted that the accused be sent to jail as he was no more required for further questioning in the case.

The court also allowed the counsel for the accused to get a copy of the FIR in the case.

According to sources, the CBI had summoned several government officials and other persons in connection with the probe.

Earlier, the special court had extended the CBI custody of Joshi after the agency mentioned that seven new files have been recovered during the probe.

Joshi, who was arrested from west Delhi on May 15, was under CBI custody which ended today.

CBI had earlier claimed that the files relating to several NGOs had gone missing from Home Ministry and they were recovered from his house although he was not supposed to take them away.

It had alleged that Joshi had been issuing notices dishonestly to a large number of NGOs/societies registered under the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) 2010, which have been receiving significant amount of foreign contributions, in an arbitrary manner.

It has said some of these organisations are Care India, Snehalya Charitable Trust, Indian HIV/AIDS Alliance and All India Primary Teachers Federation and alleged that the representatives of some of these organisations were called and Joshi demanded and obtained illegal gratification.
Joshi was arrested on May 15 after he allegedly gave

unconvincing answers to the questions posed by a team of Special Crime division of the CBI, including those related to disappearance of files on Sabrang Trust of activist Teesta Setalvad.

Joshi, who had disappeared from his home in Indirapuram in Ghaziabad, was picked up from Tilak Nagar area of West Delhi and taken to the CBI headquarters for questioning.

Subsequently, he was arrested by the agency.

Joshi has rejected the charge and instead accused his seniors of pressuring him to give a clean chit to NGOs. In a note which he had left before leaving home, Joshi claimed he had been subjected to "mental harassment" in recent months.

CBI had alleged that Joshi laundered ill-gotten earnings in various immovable assets as well as certain private firms which were floated by him and that his wife was one of the directors in them.

It alleged even after his transfer from FCRA division, he continued to indulge in corrupt activities on the basis of documents which were in his possession unauthorisedly.

The agency claimed that during the search conducted at Joshi's house, one file pertaining to FCRA about private NGO Care India Solutions for Sustainable Development has been seized and his interrogation was needed to know as to how the official files made way in his house and what was his intention in bringing them.

The matter came to light after files pertaining to alleged FCRA violations by two NGOs run by Setalvad went missing from the Home Ministry. The files were traced and restored to the FCRA division but CBI was asked to investigate the matter.

It was noticed that the files had gone missing when the Home Ministry took a decision to cancel FCRA registration of one of Setalvad's NGOs, Sabrang Trust, sources had said.

Source: http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/mha-officer-sent-to-judicial-custody-till-june-6-116052400892_1.html



Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mandatory Disclosure on Website

Annual audited FCRA accounts

Rule 13 (a): Earlier NGOs receiving more than Rs 1 crore were required to put up a summary of receipts & payments on their website, however the amended rule requires that all NGOs to display audited FCRA accounts including Balance Sheet, Income & Expenditure & Receipts & Payments account for a financial year within 9 months of the year-end. Considering 9 month period ended on 31st December and the rules have been amended effective 14th Dec 2015, there is a school of thought which states that NGOs should display their FCRA accounts on their website by 31st December 2015.

Quarterly donor receipts 

Rule 13 (b): All NGOs receiving Foreign Contribution are required to disclose on quarterly basis following information:

  •  Donor-wise details of FC amounts received in its designated account as well as the date of receipt.

The above information is to be disclosed within 15 days of the quarter-end. Considering these rules were notified on 14th Dec 2015, this information is will become due for 31stDecember quarter and should be on the website by 15th January 2016.

In view of the above amendments, we urge all NGOs receiving FC to display the above information on their official websites, at the earliest. Please do note the above amendments are applicable to all NGOs registered under FCRA or having prior permission, irrespective of the amount received.

Quarterly disclosure for organizations not having their own websites

All FCRA registered / prior-permission entities have to disclose FCRA funds received on theirofficial websites. However in case of organisations which do not maintain any official website, FCRA Dep. has now come to their rescue by asking them to file quarterly returns on FCRA website.

This is how it works. An NGO wanting to post its quarterly details of FCRA funds rec’d should log on to online website of FCRA Dept. https://fcraonline.nic.in/home/index.aspx . Using its user id and password, organizations can post the quarterly return on FCRA website within 15 days of the quarter end.

Information to be posted consists of following:

  •  Name of the donor
  • Type of Donor, i.e. individual or institutional,
  • Address of the Donor
  • Purpose (select out of options like economical, social, cultural, religious, etc)
  • Amount of grant received

The above is for your information and necessary action.