Thursday, August 20, 2015

New digital platform to empower NGOs

The newly launched domain will address issue of trust deficit

In an atmosphere of increased negative focus on non-governmental organisations, members of around 100 different NGOs attended the South India launch of an exclusive domain ‘.ngo’ for NGOs at Puducherry on Wednesday. The new domain is expected to address the crucial issue of trust deficit.

Earlier launched in U.S.

The domain was launched in US earlier this year by the Public Interest Registry, which is the registry for the .org and .ong domains.

In India, it is being introduced by the Digital Empowerment Foundation, which works to bridge the digital divide through its eNGO Programme for NGOs in India, South Asia and Africa. The domain had a national launch in July in New Delhi.

The .ngo domain is unique as it can be used by verified and registered NGOs alone, after a stringent validation process. For the first time, a domain address cannot simply be bought.

Addressing representatives of the NGOs at the launch, Osama Manzar, founder, Digital Empowerment Foundation, said, “NGOs must have a face on the internet to increase visibility for the hard work that is done. This will help you raise the required funds.” In a sense, this would be a cleaning up of the NGO world, he said. Jeri Curry, CEO, Enset, the non-profit domain registrar of PIR, said, “If you cannot be found, you cannot be part of the conversation.” Ms. Curry said that the need for an exclusive domain came from within the sector.

NGOs must consider switching to the domain because it is validated, she said. “The .ngo domain says we are here, we can be found and we are credible. It raises visibility of the sector,” she said.

For NGOs to grow, it is important to keep up with the times, including becoming digitally equipped, said Anjali Schiavina, Chairperson, CII-Indian Women Network Puducherry and Managing Director, Mandala Apparels Pvt. Ltd., a social enterprise.

Amitabh Singhal, board member, Public Interest Registry, said that when .org was launched, it had automatically become the domain for all NGOs. There are around 10 million .org websites, he said. Getting the .ngo domain would provide a package of services, including ease of receiving donations with a ‘donation button’. “.ngo is a further validation of the good work you are doing,” he said.

Gayatri from the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs said that Rs. 20,000 crore was available for Corporate Social Responsibility funding and as per the Companies Act, 2013, a total of 16,000 companies have to set aside funds for CSR. She added that India was the first to mandate such a provision, and that the .ngo domain would address the trust deficit between corporates and NGOs.


Online submission of grant applications

Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment’s online submission of applications for the financial year 2015-16 has been enabled /Open. NGOs are requested for submit their grant applications for 2015-16 now at: 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

CM Naveen Patnaik to confer Think CSR & Think Odisha Leadership Awards 2015 on 14th August, 2015

Report by Odisha Diary bureau, Bhubaneswar: Tefla's in association with The Times of India is delighted to present the 8 th Edition of THINK CSR Forum on 14th August, 2015 at The Crown, Bhubaneswar. THINK FOUNDATION is the principal host to this event. The forum will draw on the experiences of CSR practitioners, CEOs and sustainability experts to give business rationale for an integrated CSR approach, providing specific examples of strategic initiatives that have enhanced business competitiveness, cultivated brand loyalty and built-up communities.

The Think CSR has the following primary purposes:

• To highlight innovative programs and best practices in CSR by Companies

• Promote CSR as a key strategy in addressing public needs and problems

• To showcase corporate innovation in CSR

• To promote new thinking and standards on CSR as strategy

• To build a network of CSR practitioners

Shri. Ashok Chandra Panda, Hon’ble Minister of State (Independent Charge), Tourism & Culture., Govt. of Odisha will be the Chief Guest during Think CSR Inaugural Ceremony on the morning of 14th August, 2015. The other invited eminent Speakers during the Business Sessions include: Prof. Dr. Ashok Sar, Dean, KIIT School of Management, Tara Ranjan Patnaik, Chairman and Director , Falcon Marine Exports Ltd., Rajesh Jha, CEO, CTL, Adani Mining Pvt. Ltd., Prashant Hota, VP - CSR, R&R and Corporate Communications, Jindal Steel & Power Limited, P. K. Sahoo, Chairman, CYSD, Dr Manjula Jagatramla, VAITARNA, Mumbai, Nilambar Rath, Editor, ETV News Odia, Bhavna Prasad, Sr. Advisor, Sustainable Business, WWF India, Dr. Choudhury Satyabrata Nanda, Eminent Doctor & Author, Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, Chairman, Eastern India Media Group, Dr. Piyush Ranjan Rout, Co Founder, Local Governance Network & Abhay Dwivedi, Trustee, THINK Foundation. And Senior Representatives from TATA Steel, NALCO, Bhushan Steel Limited & RSP (SAIL).

Think CSR & Think Odisha Leadership Awards At this year’s 8 th Annual Think CSR Awards on the evening of 14th August, 2015, we will celebrate and salute the resilience of companies that have not only weathered the financial storm but remained resolute in trying times, to continuously uphold the highest standard in CSR while developing innovative and sustainable solutions and products for greater profitability and improving the welfare of societies. Think Odisha – Leadership Awards in an attempt to recognize and honour individuals & organizations who have contributed consistently to the betterment of the state of Odisha through their pursuit of excellence. Award Categories are; Government – Society Interface; Business Leaders; Entertainment; Sports Person; Social Activist / Social Organization; Educationist / Educational Institute for Excellence; Environmentalist; Literature; Art / Culture; Life Time Achievement Award.

Awardees are selected by a very High Powered Jury comprising of: Shri Shudanshu Bhusan Mishra, IAS (Retd.), Chairperson, Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Odisha, Shri Gopala Chandra Nanda, IPS (Retd.), Former Director General of Police, Govt. of India, Padma Vibhushan Raghunath Mohapatra, Architect and Sculptor, Shri Bijoy Mohanty, Actor, Dr. Pratibha Satpathy, Poet, Dr. Suryanarayan Mishra, Professor, Political Science, Shri. P K Sahoo, Chairman – CYSD, Shri Abhay Dwivedi, Trustee, Think Foundation, Gp Capt. K K Chanda (Retd.), & Kailash Singh, Managing Director - Tefla's, Chairman - Think Foundation.

Like earlier years, Shri. Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha has been invited to be the Chief Guest during Think Odisha Award Ceremony. There will be a Special Performance by RITURAJ MOHANTY - WINNER OF INDIA’S RAW STAR during the Award Ceremony.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Online process applications portal for Government Grants for Indian NGOs

Social Justice and Empowerment online process portal for applications of NGOs is in operation since April 1, 2014 and NGOs are required to submit their applications for grants online, which is mandatory.

Apply grants at:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Invitation for NGO Accountants Network (NAN) - Regional Convention

Dear Colleagues,

Greetings from FMSF!

Financial Management Service Foundation would like to invite you all to join our 7th Annual Regional NGO’s Accountant Network (NAN) Convention to be held at Bangalore, Karnataka on 24th & 25th August 2015. The venue for the convention will be:

United theological Centre,

63 Millers Road, Benson Town,

Bangalore, Karnataka

The NGO Accountants Network (NAN) is a network of Finance personnel and Accountants working in the development sector. It aims at providing a forum for mutual learning and growth. The objective of the network is to build a pool of expertise and sensitize on field level realities. NGO Accountants’ Network (NAN) is, therefore, formed with the following objectives:

· To build a pool of expertise

· To sensitize on the field realities

· To enable mutual learning

The 7th Regional NAN Convention will focus on the changing regulatory framework governing the voluntary sector. With changes both under FCRA and Income tax, this convention aims to create awareness and promote good practices in the area of financial management and compliances to various laws of the land.

The Convention will have highly experienced and skilled resource persons, who will be able to provide critical inputs on the subject matter. The convention will consist of Technical sessions with Plenary, Keynote and invited talks along with contributed presentations, queries and open discussions. We request you to kindly participate and register.

The brochure of the Convention is herewith attached. The participants who are interested to attend can register in the Registration form attached herewith and send the filled in form to my colleague Ms. Akrita Bharos (

Alternatively, you can also register online. For online registration click here.

We wish to see you at the 7th Annual Regional NAN Convention

Warm regards,

Sanjay Patra Executive Director

Compliance: NGOs must get online

The way forward for a more transparent and accountable environment is to ensure the fraction of NGOs who have records to prove their compliance go online

I always used to quote in my public discussions that India has more than 3.3 million non-governmental organisations (NGOs), a figure I got from somewhere and stuck with me. I also, on my own, without any substantial support, mentioned that not more than 10% of these NGOs would be working with sincerity and dedication.

My assumption was vindicated by the recently released information by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that was published in some newspapers late last week. According to the published reports sourced from the CBI, which further attributes its source to the Registrar of Societies, there are 3.1 million NGOs in India, which means this is the largest institutional form of body in any sector anywhere in any country in the world.

In fact, all other major and large institutions in India look small compared to the number of NGOs. For example, there are only 250,000 panchayat institutions in the country, with about 2.8 million elected members. Similarly, we have about 1.8 million Anganwadi or frontline health workers in the country, which is again a figure of the collective of individuals under health as an institution. Ironically, we have 50% fewer schools in India compared to the number of NGOs.

According to reports, less than 10% of the 3.1 million NGOs have submitted their balance sheets and filed income-tax returns—i.e., 290,000 of them. This is just a little more than the number of panchayats in India, and perhaps it is the correct number of NGOs that India should ideally have.

Actually, we should not be surprised that only 10% of the total number of registered NGOs are believed to be functional and seen as accountable. If we look at any institution at that scale in India, the performance and accountability list would be around the same percentage. We need to ask ourselves how many panchayats are functional in a real sense and how many of the elected members attend or hold gram sabhas. The result won’t be very impressive.

One account that I have is that not more than 50,000 of the total 250,000 panchayats have computers, which is only 20%. Although computers have been allocated to all of them, the number of panchayats that use the computers and the connectivity provided to them is low. My account comes from the more than 100 locations where we are present. Not at a single one of these locations have we ever found any panchayats using computers for their daily work.

Similarly, I have another account about frontline health workers. Last week, I was in Gadchiroli, in a village called Bodhli to meet a Stree Arogya Doot (female health worker) who works under an NGO called SEARCH. Her task was to take care of pregnant women and newborn babies under a programme called home-based newborn. In this village and many adjoining villages, there are many ASHA workers on the rolls of the government. They are paid well, but not a single mother or pregnant woman goes to these workers. The poor performance of the schools in India could be seen through the recently released Socio Economic and Caste Census. It has already revealed an abysmal performance on the part of schools and teachers and its impact on education.

Likewise, look at the business sector. How many of the institutions are functional and accountable? There are more than 26 million micro and small enterprises in India, but how many of them are functional and how many of those registered with the Registrar of Companies have ever done their balance sheet or filed their income-tax return, for that matter?

I know for a fact that out of 2,000 traditional skill-based clusters in India, where thousands of entrepreneurs and enterprises exist, none of them ever got themselves registered or have ever filed their income-tax returns. I got to know this because we wanted to get them websites and asked what credentials they had to show online.

I do not think that it is a big surprise that we have less than 10% of NGOs who have shown compliance; the issue has more to do with perception. I guess, as soon as one talks of NGOs, people expect them to be above normal human beings—extraordinarily honest, devoted, frugal, ethical, full of sacrifice and certainly the ones not expected to hide anything.

The reason for this expectation is not totally misplaced, as that is what NGOs declare themselves to be. However, over a period of time, there have been trends to form NGO for an available opportunity and then open another one for another opportunity.

For example, in one of several workshops that we organized for NGOs to train them in digital tools, we got to know, especially in Andhra Pradesh, that hundreds of NGOs are formed every year as per the work availability under various government departments. After the disbursement of amounts per NGO, they gradually, for all practical purpose, cease to exist. Try to get in touch using any of their contact numbers and address and you won’t find anything.

To bring order in this sector with the firm belief that the right ones who do hard work do not suffer from lack of visibility, resources and linkages with government and supporting organizations—these NGOs also produce lot of content and knowledge that must be shared in open domain—we reached out to about 10,000 NGOs in the last five years through many workshops.

More than 90% of them said they would be more than happy to have their website and are ready to share everything that is usually asked for compliances. I believe online presence for each NGO must be made mandatory, with each of them, as part of compliance procedures, sharing their annual balance sheet and the list of work and locations, including the names of funding sources.

Instead of blaming the NGOs that do not comply, we should blame those who choose to work with them. The way forward for a more transparent and accountable environment for NGOs, at least for a start, is to ensure all those 10% NGOs who have records to prove their compliance go online.

Osama Manzar is founder-director of Digital Empowerment Foundation and chair of Manthan and mBillionth awards. He is also a member of screening committee of community radio at the ministry of information & broadcasting. Tweet him @osamamanzar


Sunday, August 2, 2015

A handy guide to helping NGOs effect social change

Civil society—the NGO sector—bridges the gulf between citizens and government. When governments treat this bridge with hostility, it is the citizen who is distanced and whose interests have no interlocutor.

July 2015 brought civil society funding into the limelight. Azim Premji gave away almost half his stake in Wipro to his charitable foundation, which supports The Azim Premji Foundation and Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative. This was overshadowed by the government’s hot pursuit of Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand’s NGO with allegations that they misused donations.

Not only does the government’s action draw attention to the ever-conflictual relationship between state and civil society, it also brings forward some concerns that only NGOs need to worry about— the regulatory universe of NGO funding and its impact on our functioning. (Full disclosure: I run an NGO that depends almost entirely on individual donations.)

A year ago, the Central Bureau of Investigation estimated that there were around 20 lakh NGOs in India, averaging one for every 600 Indians. The Voluntary Action Network India estimates 1.2 million NGOs, of which 73.4% have one or less paid staff member, 80% work with local contributions (13% with government and 7% with international funding). These are old numbers but still correct indicators, I think. Essentially, we should understand that there are countless NGOs, registered in different ways (as trusts, societies or non-profit companies), working across the country on different levels and varying scales, mostly very small and funded largely locally. We know from our work in Chennai that they are poorly networked and most of them pivot around a founder or two, operating in relative isolation.

There appears to be a growth in the numbers of NGOs and, according to Scroll, experts in the social sector attribute this growth to various factors including growing social inequality, entrepreneurial spirit and greater availability of funds. People are constantly pointing out that with companies now obliged to spend 2% of their profit socially, it must be a good time for NGOs.

But are things that easy?

First, let us look at the question of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Most companies have their own CSR activities, either through foundations or villages or self-help groups that they adopt. They do not reach out to non-profits to disburse money, although that is a common perception. Most average NGOs would not have a clue about how to identify or approach a CSR manager either. Moreover, if companies were to go strictly by the items listed in Schedule VII of the Companies Act, what they could legitimately support is quite restricted. There is a suggestion that companies should liberally interpret the guidelines, but at a moment where the social sector is generally regarded with suspicion, if not hostility, most companies will err on the side of caution.

This means that for most NGOs to access CSR resources, they would have to make large adjustments in their proposed activities. Once, at a meeting to request financial support, someone told us, “We support tree-planting and blood donation.” Unfortunately, those were not the things we were seeking to do. Integrity in the social sector is not just good book-keeping and transparency, it is also sticking to your original vision and the things you set out to do. It is incredibly difficult to stay that course and yet, thousands of NGOs do it against great odds.

Communicating with corporates is also hard. People in the NGO sector come in with a sense of wanting to do something about a cause. Corporates speak a different language, literally, and it takes a lot of time and effort to understand the marketing and venture capital language with which they interrogate NGO workers. The effort tends to be one-sided, and even then, it is often hard for the corporate interlocutor to understand exactly what the NGO person envisions. Sometimes, we do work that cannot be counted or measured easily; the numbers may mean more to corporates than they do to us in this sector. With awareness or advocacy work, for instance, we can tell you we have reached or talked to X number of people in Y locations. Whether we have convinced them, we cannot tell from one contact and we honestly should not. The gestation period of some of this work is longer than time institutional funders have.

There is a great deal of discussion about FCRA and its abuse these days. Would that foreign funding were that easy to access! Applying for FCRA is a cumbersome and time-consuming process with no automatic return. You cannot be sure your application will be approved and you cannot be sure that once it is, you will actually get the grants you hope for. Now with almost all FCRA approvals up for renewal, in this climate it is also doubtful that many will get renewed, throwing those organisations into disarray. This means that, for one, many employees will have to find other jobs. What is worse, many care and development projects will have to be shut down, hurting those most in need of services. Little wonder that in recent years, one comes across NGOs who simply choose not to bother with the hassles of FCRA.

So who funds them? In our case, I can tell you it’s mostly your average, invisible, “ordinary” Indian. The India Philanthropy Report 2011 found that individual donors made up only 26% of all charitable donations. They were looking at the giving habits of wealthy individuals. That 26% takes on great meaning when you consider how much of it comes from middle class donors. For them, that Rs.1000-3000 donation is a large percentage that they may not even be able to spare. It has immeasurable value for the receiving NGO.

The 2015 India Philanthropy Report says that the total number of donors has gone up in India but it describes the reality that many of us live— that there are two tiers of giving. In Tier 1 are NGOs that consistently receive support from their donors; the report uses the word “sophisticated” to describe both those donors and NGOs. NGOs in Tier 2 inhabit a negative spiral in which donors move from cause to cause and NGOs are constantly raising funds. That is a reality. The challenge is to transform Tier 2 by building its capacity. But how?

Let’s start with the great concern about lack of accountability and transparency on the part of the NGO. It is a healthy concern whether applied to NGOs, political parties or corporates. But if we return to the VANI statistic about most NGOs employing just one person, in order for them to keep great books, that person needs to be an accountant. Individual donors do not have the capacity to support an office space or a living wage for a qualified person. For the quality of governance that NGOs are expected to have, we need to have a minimum administrative structure— a good book-keeper, a space to keep records. There is demand for that, but no support. If the one person employed by an NGO is a book-keeper, then who will do the work for which the NGO was founded?

While completely agreeing that NGOs must meet the standards to which they hold others,I would ask potential donors to consider this everyday conundrum in our lives. How can they help NGOs create the administrative support structures essential for the work that they do? All sorts of gifts would help: office space; dedicated administrative support or web design and maintenance (essential for transparency these days). A volunteer accountant from your organisation to visit and help with accounts would be greatly appreciated by many organisations. But the most radical help would be to get over the allergy to administrative overheads when you support an organisation.

Dedicated giving—to one purpose or one activity—has its utility, but giving without conditions, is far more useful. It allows the money to flow where it is most useful in the moment. In a sense, it is closest to the ideal of giving that every faith tradition advocates: giving in gratitude because you are in a position to give, rather than to control an outcome because you are in a position to do so. Most individuals give in this spirit and that is why they are so precious to small organisations like mine.

Corporates and foundations are constrained by their rules but they can emulate this model of giving if they take a little trouble to get to know a cause or an organisation in a sustained fashion. The responsibility of facilitating that cannot rest with the NGO alone. They are already short-handed and under-resourced. “Cultivating” a potential donor is simply not as important as addressing the need of the day. A part of the job description of the hundreds who will now be recruited to CSR portfolios must be to devote time to learning about causes and maybe even volunteering with an organisation as part of their due diligence before an official relationship is charted.

The India Philanthropy Report shows that donors like to give to organisations with a proven capacity to handle money, accounts and even receipts. The result is that those who have, get more. In the service sector, this creates a situation where most service providers—say, those who run helplines and distress services for women—cannot hire trained help, cannot spend money on training, cannot upgrade or expand their services and cannot retain their staff. What does this mean for the quality of services available to the majority? It means that one or two organisations are able to do this work brilliantly and everyone else just holds on thinking that something is better than nothing.

Civil society—the NGO sector—bridges the gulf between citizens and government. When governments treat this bridge with hostility, it is the citizen who is distanced and whose interests have no interlocutor. NGOs take on the responsibility for a hundred different things—from handloom cooperatives to prisoners’ rights to concerns about nuclear energy or land use to education—that are beyond the capacity of individual citizens and strain the reach (and the political will) of governments. All these issues and projects however, underwrite the democracy and the visions of equitable development we like to endorse over long lunches and dinners.

None of us can support all those causes. If we gave thoughtfully, however, we might find that press freedom or supporting the preservation of indigenous seeds is particularly important to us. A little research would shows us who is working in that area and we could learn how to make a donation. Remember that many, many organisations cannot afford to join portals or to set up online payment. When I make the commitment to give, I make the commitment to finding a way to get that support across even if I have to walk over to the post office and send a money order.

You do not have to give. But giving feels really good. It enables the NGO to do their work but it empowers the donor even more. Giving can include time, materials or money. It can take the form of sharing your network or your administrative resources. Running this small organisation, I have seen and I can reassure you that every bit really counts and nothing is too small a gift. Even your loose change can buy stamps for an NGO—​ revenue stamps for receipts and postage stamps to send them out!

Swarna Rajagopalan is a political scientist by training and the founder of Prajnya.​


Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly of FCRA?

In 2010, Mr. P. Chidambaram told the Parliament that the Government does not mind if foreign contribution is used for 'legitimate charitable social, educational, medical and activity that serves any public purpose'. However, it won't allow foreign contribution to 'dominate social and political discourse in India'. However, the FCRA Bill, passed after Mr. Chidambaram's luminous speech, did not say what activities might influence the social and political discourse. The rules also left this undefined (except for a definition of political activities, given in rule 3).

This uncertainty will be cleared up once the FCRA rules are amended (click here to see the proposed draft). NGOs will be asked to tabulate their expenditure against a list of 81 purposes while filing the annual return for foreign contribution (the present list has only 56, including a residual item: other activities).

The new list also contains a useful code hinting at what is acceptable and what is not. The purposes are sub-divided into three categories: service delivery, civil rights advocacy, and research.

A. Service Delivery

This list has 56 activities - mostly around construction, welfare, education, income generation, agriculture, religion, disaster relief, etc. This is the classic formulation of charity, which is focused on helping others directly. Interestingly, the list includes theatre/films, empowerment of women, awareness camps, and seminars. Also included is 'salary / honorarium to non-employees as part of specific projects', whatever that might mean.

B. Civil Rights Advocacy

This, of course, is the bone of contention between government and NGOs. This is suitably limited to 20 activities, including rights, discrimination, justice, natural resources, climate change, and accountability. Child rights also show up here, as do public health, communication strategy and internet freedom. Though empowerment of women is classified as service delivery, violence against women, and sex workers' rights are under civil rights advocacy.

Religious discrimination is listed here, though other religious activities are under service delivery. Capacity building is also included here - it would have to be somehow distinguished from awareness camps, meetings, and seminars, which are listed under service delivery.

C. Research

Research seems to be the new joker in the pack - you never know where it might take you! Therefore, all conferences, lectures, publications, seminars, are in this grey zone. Conferences and seminars are also listed under service delivery, probably due to an oversight.

Therefore, if you spend most of the foreign contribution on service delivery, the FCRA department is unlikely to be bothered. But if your activities include civil rights advocacy or research, you should be prepared for some discomforting scrutiny by the Department!

The complete list is given below.

Category A: Service Delivery
Celebration of national events (Independence/Republic Day), festivals, etc.
Maintenance of places of historical & cultural importance
Preservation of ancient/ tribal/ indigenous art forms
Cultural activities
Setting up and running handicraft centre/ cottage & khaki industry/ social forestry projects
Animal husbandry projects
Projects/ schemes for income generation for targeted groups
Micro finance projects, including setting up banking cooperatives and self-help groups
Agricultural activity
Rural Development
Construction and maintenance of school/ college
Construction and running of hostel for poor students
Grant of stipend/ scholarship/ assistance in cash and kind to poor/ deserving children
Purchase and supply of educational material - books, notebooks, etc.
Conducting adult literacy programs
Education/ Schools for the mentally challenged
Non-formal education projects/ coaching classes
Construction/ Repair/ Maintenance of place of worship
Religious schools/ education of priests and preachers
Publication and distribution of religious literature
Religious functions
Maintenance of priests/ preachers/ other religious functionaries
Construction / Running of hospital/ dispensary/ clinic
Construction of community halls etc.
Construction and Management of old age home
Welfare of the aged/ widows
Construction and Management of Orphanage
Welfare of orphans
Construction and Management of dharamshala/ shelter
Holding of free medical/ health/ family welfare/ immunisation camps
Supply of free medicine, and medical aid, including hearing aids, visual aids, family planning
Treatment/ Rehabilitation of persons suffering from leprosy
Treatment/ Rehabilitation of drug addicts
Welfare/ Empowerment of women
Welfare of children
Provision of free clothing/ food to the poor, needy and destitute
Relief/ Rehabilitation of victims of natural calamities
Help to victims of riots/ other disturbances
Digging of bore wells
Sanitation including community toilets, etc.
Vocational training - tailoring, motor repairs, computers, etc.
Awareness Camp/ Seminar/ Workshop/ Meeting/ Conference
Organising sports activities
Treatment and rehabilitation of persons affected by disease
Welfare of the specially/ differently abled, including provision of aids such as wheelchairs, hearing/visual aids, etc.
Welfare of the Scheduled Castes
Welfare of the Scheduled Tribes
Welfare of the Other Backward Classes
Survey for socio-economic and other welfare programs
Establishment expenses
Asset building
Establishment of Corpus Fund
Purchase of land
Construction/ Extension/ Maintenance of office, administrative and other buildings
Payment of salaries/ honorarium to non-employees as part of specific projects

Category B: Civil Rights advocacy
Human rights
Caste Discrimination
Religious Discrimination
Violence Against Women
Child Rights
Human trafficking
Bonded labour
Sex workers rights
Tribal/indigenous peoples' rights
Democratic rights
Public accountability
Capacity building
Communication strategy
Criminal Justice System
Community rights
Issues regarding natural resources
Climate Change
Cyber Security
Internet freedom
Public health

Category C: Research

[FCRA: Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 - Applicable in India]

Friday, July 31, 2015

Update Information within next 15 days to avail online Services of FCRA with ease

FCRA Department has become quite active as we all know. Now it has asked all FCRA registered associations to provide various details online. Please go to the link following to access the registration screen and update details as requested. These details mainly cover address, chief functionary mobile, email id, designated bank account and utilization account details.

There is an option to review this data even after saving the information, but do not press submit button till you are sure. For Instructions click here. :

MOST IMPORTANT: These details have to be provided within next 15 days.

Register for Online Access at FCRA

FCRA Department has uploaded a new utility for NGOs who have an FCRA number but are not registered for online access to FCRA.

Such NGOs are advised to go the site They should then update their information using the topmost link. This should be done within the next 15 days. This will allow the NGOs to avail all FCRA services online. FCRA Department plans to go fully online in the next 15-20 days.

Apparently, this utility works only for those NGOs who are not already registered for online access. Therefore, if you are already filing your FC-6 online, you don’t need to do anything.

Playing out of CREES?

You know what happens when you start playing out of crease in cricket. You get stumped. FCRA also has similar rules. And a little-known CREES. This one is the classification that you choose when you register under FCRA.

CREES is an acronym for Cultural, Religious, Economic, Educational, and Social activities. You can choose one or more at the time of registration. But you should stick to whichever ones you have chosen. What if you change your mind, and want to do different programs? You should first inform FCRA Department, and have your classification updated. You can then start playing in the new CREES.

What happens if you don't bother to update your classification? The wicketkeepers at FCRA can stump you with one swipe!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

FCRA information & submissions online

FCRA Department is trying to make many of the information & submissions online. As one step in the direction the FCRA Department would like to have updated information for all registered organisations in their online portal as per the circular of the department dated 28th July 2015. This update in the website has to be completed within next 15 days.

Therefore the registered organisations can go to and click on Registered Associations - Update information to fill the various fields and update their data.

New Reporting Requirements for Foreign-financed NGOs?

A local media report states that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has finalized language for the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2015. According to the report, the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2015 will require foreign-financed non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to complete Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) registration and financial reporting online. The report claims that these reforms are currently under review by the Ministry of Law and Justice; the MHA will announce the changes if and when approved.

FCRA registration and financial reporting is currently a manual process. The FCRA reform could help some foreign-financed NGOs comply with the FCRA. However, it is unclear whether the reform is designed to make FCRA compliance easier or simply increase the reporting requirements for foreign-financed NGOs. Earlier in June, the Prime Minister’s Office was reported to have instructed the MHA to tighten NGO regulations and shorten a window for reporting foreign financing. Since May, the Indian government has revoked the licenses of over 10,000 NGOs for not complying with the FCRA.

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NGOs: The credibility conundrum

To accomplish their 2% CSR spending, many companies may need to partner with non-profits. But since few NGOs have accreditation, organizations are finding it difficult to partner with them

The rules for corporate social responsibility (CSR), under the Companies Act, 2013, which came into force on 1 April 2014, clearly state that companies have three channels to implement their CSR projects: foundations, in-house CSR teams or partnering with non-profits.

Credited with formulation of the 2014 CSR rules, Bhasker Chatterjee, director general, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), an autonomous institute under the corporate affairs ministry, is a strong proponent of partnership between companies and non-profits for CSR-related spending.

According to him, while company foundations have their place in channelling CSR funds, implementation of CSR activities is not possible without engaging with non-profits.

“Many a time, companies are city-centric and so are their foundations; to have a real impact, they need to go to the grassroots level and they can only do so if they engage with non-profits,” he said.

This view is echoed by many in the sector. “CSR rules emphasise that the subjectivity of non-profits with domain knowledge and grassroots reach must marry the objectivity of professional corporates to have the best impact on the ground,” said Sudhir Singh, leader-CSR (compliance), PwC India.

But forging such partnerships has not been easy.

Two factors stand in the way: many companies feel the credibility of non-profits is suspect and most would rather establish their own foundations than work with non-profits.

For instance, Kolkata-based HR consultancy, Genius Consultants, would much rather conduct its CSR initiatives through its own foundation, Grow Genius Foundation. The company provides financial aid to under-privileged children studying in classes III to X as part of its CSR spend. It aims to disburse Rs.18 lakh through the foundation in 2015-16, this is the first year for them as the foundation was only established in March.

“We felt we were capable of implementing our own CSR initiatives and want such initiatives to have the maximum impact. If we give money to some other organization, it will be difficult to ensure impact and optimal use of this money,” said founder-director R.P. Yadav. He added that the due diligence required can best be achieved if the company implements its own initiatives.

Maruti Suzuki, on the other hand, is moving towards a mix of in-house initiatives and tie-ups with non-profits. Right now, it conducts close to 80% of its CSR initiatives in-house with a team of 40 people. “We prefer to do CSR activities in-house as we have a better monitoring of money spent and targets achieved,” explained Ranjit Singh, the company’s CSR head. “However, under the new CSR rules, we are venturing into sectors thatMaruti does not have domain knowledge in (and hence the need to engage non-profits),” he added.

For instance, under skill development, Maruti has adopted 29 state-run technical training institutes as part of an in-house initiative, but for campaigns like building toilets, it is working in partnership with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Sulabh International. “We only work with NGOs after thorough background checks and verification,” Singh said.

Sulabh has constructed 100 toilets for Maruti in 2014-15 and has been tasked with constructing 700 more in 2015-16. In 2014-15, Maruti spentRs.37.25 crore on CSR, which was 1.48% of its profits. This figure was also a 60% jump from the spend in 2013-14.

The CSR rules say that companies with a turnover of Rs.1,000 crores or more, or with net worth of Rs.500 crore or more and companies with net profit of Rs.5 crore or more need to spend at least 2% of the average net profit of the preceding three years on social activities defined in the rule under schedule VII.

While large companies like Maruti rely on internal processes to perform background checks on the NGOs it chooses to work with, smaller organizations find this tough.

That is because there is no centralized, credible vetting process in place for NGOs, though there are several ongoing initiatives to provide accreditation to NGOs.

IICA currently lists 79 NGOs on its website as credible organizations. The list includes organizations such as Abled Disabled All People Together (ADAPT, formerly Spastics Society of India) in Maharashtra, Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) in Andhra Pradesh and Bhagwan Mahaveer Vikalang Sahitya Samiti in Rajasthan.

However, the list comes with a disclaimer that “IICA is not responsible” for the way any organization might behave after a company starts working with them. This declaration has been put in place “to avoid legal liability to the institute in case of any wrongdoing by the NGOs”, Chatterjee explained.

All 79 organizations listed on the website are said to have undergone a rigorous process of checks and received approval from as many as seven government agencies and ministries. These NGOs submitted copies of their legal and financial documents and IICA took 90-120 days to process and cross-check the submissions and then upload the details of the organizations on its website.

This approval is valid for three years. The data-base was uploaded three months ago and the institute said it is going to expand this database exponentially in the coming months.

Industry associations like the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) have also started work on an NGO database. In collaboration with Bombay Stock Exchange and IICA, CII launched the Sammaan portal in April, which will facilitate companies partnering with NGOs, whose credentials have been verified, to track their funds.

Five years ago, some NGOs came forward with mechanisms to establish their authenticity. One such initiative was the Credibility Alliance, a Delhi-based organization which claimed to have verified addresses and financial records of 700 such organizations. This is still a very small number, considering that the country has an estimated 1-2 million such organizations.

Another platform purportedly listing ‘credible’ NGOs is HelpYourNGO—an initiative started in 2002, which provides detailed financial records of non-profits to help donors pick and chose their organizations.

Pradeep Mahtani, CEO, HelpYourNGO, said, “You need to bring transparency to NGOs and just putting out the numbers is not enough. That is why we have attempted to create categories and sub-categories, which can easily be used and cross-referenced by people using our site.”

HelpYourNGO has seen its database expand from 200 registered organizations in 2013 to 575 in 2015.

A third source of ‘credible’ NGO data is GuideStar India. Established in 2008, this site gives ratings to organizations based on their transparency, accountability and work on the ground. “Initially, we were only listing organizations based on their legal and financial compliance,” said CEO and founder Pushpa Aman Singh.

This website lists 5,200 NGOs. “Though our primary source of information is the NGOs themselves, beginning February this year, we have started doing physical verification and looking at transparency and accountability of organizations along with their financial and legal compliances,” she explained.

Some consultants are also helping companies find credible partners for their CSR initiatives. Adarsh Kataruka, director, Soul ACE, a pan-India consultancy firm, offers such a service to his clients but this information is not in the public domain. He said the company has a list of close to 5,000 non-profits, which have been cross-checked by Soul ACE.

“So, if a company is interested in spending CSR funds in a particular sector such as women’s empowerment, the Soul ACE team identifies the best in the sector and conducts background checks and cross-references before suggesting names (of partners) to the company,” Kataruka explained.

“Since CSR initiatives are still developing and the programmes are not set in stone, such accrediting initiatives may actually help in the long run,” Sudhir Singh of PwC India said.

But verification of paperwork submitted by NGOs is not enough.

The accreditation process must verify governance within the non-profit, capacity of the organization, legal standing, financial records as well as impact on the ground, he added.


CSR norms cover 16,500 companies

As many as 16,500 companies in India fall under the purview of mandatory corporate social responsibility (CSR) norms, posing a challenge not only for those engaging in such causes for the first time but also others in terms of effective implementation and reporting, experts maintain.

"Companies have good intention to spend on CSR but are not able to manage the entire CSR lifecycle," said Parul Soni, global managing partner with Thinkthrough Consulting Global, which specialises in social development initiatives.

"They are unable to find good implementing partners -- those who are able to understand the vision of the company," Soni told a seminar co-hosted by the National HRD Network (NHRDN) and Thinkthrough Consulting.

"There is an immediate need to develop the capacity of the implementing partners across different domains so that they can sustainably implement the CSR vision of the company."

Stakeholders told the seminar that despite India emerging as one of the fast-growing economies, millions of Indians still live in abject poverty, putting the corporate sector under severe scrutiny due to such uneven development.

With Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 laying down the rules for CSR, the seminar focused on "From Act to Action" towards better implementation of the mandate given to the corporate sector, as also to prepare a blue print for the road ahead.

"CSR needs to focus on issues related to women empowerment, child nutrition. We say our children are the future of this country! Let's collectively make an effort to keep our future well nourished at an early age, as most of their growth happens during the first few years," Lalitha Kumarmangalam, chairperson of National Commission for Women, said.

"Also let's rise & contribute towards the women empowerment by ensuring financial independence, instilling soft skills and by making them technology savvy," she added.

Most NGO's or foundations for social welfare, are run by people with good intentions but the lack of execution and insufficient co-ordination with the corporates is not getting them the respect they deserve, K Ramkumar, national president NHRDN and executive director ICICI Bank said.

"It is this mismatch which is making the funds fall through the cracks."


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Foreign-funded NGOs must now transact online

NEW DELHI: Foreign-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will soon have to conduct all their transactions and dealings online, including filing quarterly reports of the foreign contributions received by them.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2015, finalized by the home ministry and likely to be notified next month, seek to migrate from the current manual procedure of applying for FCRA registration and reporting foreign funding etc to a fully online system. To ensure a smooth transition to an online FCRA regime, the home ministry will make the final rules public after they are vetted by the law ministry. This is expected to happen in the next few days. NGOs will be given a lead time of two to three weeks to align with the new system, before the rules are notified.

"By making all FCRA dealings online, the home ministry hopes to eliminate the need for NGOs to manually file applications and returns as well as subsequent visits by their representatives to our FCRA division for a status update. This is our big step towards Digital India," home secretary L C Goyal told TOI on Sunday.

The draft FCRR uploaded on the home ministry website in June have been refined based on comments received from NGOs and others. For instance, though the original draft proposed a seven-day timeframe for reporting a foreign contribution, objections from both big and small NGOs led the home ministry to okay quarterly reporting of foreign contributions. "We realized that the seven-day window was rather impractical, and have now provided for reporting of foreign contributions every three months," said Goyal.

The draft rules have also relaxed the requirement for each FCRA-registered NGO to maintain a website. "Given that many small NGOs have limited resources or work in remote places, we are giving them an option to operate through the home ministry portal with a login name," said Goyal.

Incidentally, though some small NGOs also raised the issue of limited net connectivity in some areas to demand retention of the manual option, the ministry sees little merit in the argument. "For the 500-600 blocks that may not have net penetration, VSAT connectivity is being given," said the home secretary.

The home ministry has decided to make it optional for NGOs to provide details of their Twitter/Facebook handles. NGOs that receive nil foreign funding may no longer need to attach a chartered accountant's certificate with their returns; mere self-certification will suffice. Besides, dispensing with the mandatory prior permission for a change of directors or bank account, the home ministry has allowed NGOs to notify it subsequently.

As per the new rules, the list of 10 forms prescribed under FCRR 2011 has been cut to six, and the forms made simpler by eliminating the unnecessary fields and paperwork. The NGOs may fill up these forms online with a digital signature. For those with no digital signature, uploading a scanned copy of the manually signed form will suffice.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Registration call for NPO Governance Programme- Batch 7

We are pleased to announce that the registration for our next batch (7th) of NPO Governance Programme is open. The session for this batch will begin in September 2015.

The NPO Governance Programme is a six months online course which is open to participants across the globe. The course is flexible in the sense that students can participate irrespective of time and place. The only requirements are that every participant has internet access, and that they invest sufficient time to read the course materials and participate in discussions.

Objective of the Course

A significant area in which non-profits are assessed by funders as well the Government is Governance. Thus, the NPO Governance programme aims to enable professionals to develop an understanding in the following areas:

· Key Fundamental documents
· Fundamental Concepts and Principles of good governance
· Various Compliances under good governance
· Board Structures & Processes
· Roles and Responsibilities of the Board and its Committees
· Key Requirements of a Sound and Effective governance system
· Governance Controls necessary for non-profits

Who should apply?

· Personnel working in mid-level, senior management level positions in NGOs,
resource sharing agencies or any other development organization

· CEOs, CFOs or Executive Director of NGOs

· Non-executive directors who need to add to their knowledge and understanding

· Individual serving in Board of NGOs, resource sharing agencies

· Consultants involved in the review and evaluations of NGOs

· Anyone with an interest in the subject matter

Interested candidates can register by filling the online form in our website www.fmsflearningsystems.orgor by downloading the offline form from the website and emailing the filled form to

Please find attached herewith the program brochure. For any other information, you can write to us

Best wishes,
Sanjay Patra
Executive Director

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Play by the rules - Corporate social responsibility is here to stay

Corporate social responsibility is a new entry in the Indian Companies Act (under clause 135). Every company with a net worth of Rs 500 crore or more, or turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or more or net profit of rupees five crore or more during any financial year is to have a CSR committee of the board with at least one independent director. These companies shall aim to spend at least two per cent of the net profit based on three years' average towards discharging their corporate social responsibility. If the expenditure is not incurred, the company's annual report to shareholders should give the reasons.

The board committee shall formulate the company policy for CSR. The activities under CSR shall cover those listed out in Schedule VII of the Bill. The committee will also recommend the expenditure to be incurred for CSR activities and monitor it. The activities covered are now known and the ministry has been responsive to requests from non-governmental organizations to add to them. Unlike donations under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act, these expenditures are not eligible for any tax concessions. (But donations to the prime minister's relief fund are so entitled.)

When I wrote on this subject in 2012, at the time it was first proposed, I argued against imposing philanthropy on companies. Though it was not yet compulsory, shortfalls had to be explained. The basic duties of a company are to run its operations honestly, follow all laws and regulations, be fair to employees, customers, suppliers, repay debts on time, and give a competitive return to shareholders. Charity and philanthropy should be at the discretion of the company. In fact, many companies in the past years have focused on employees and the local communities they are with, and on causes which give a good name to the company. However, the law now exists and companies have to plan on spending a government-determined part of the profits each year on CSR.

Many companies resent the compulsion to spend a given amount and on causes that may not be of their choosing. Obviously, they will try to get mileage out of the spending for the company. Others aim at building local goodwill in their primary locations. Any company required to spend its profits in this way will bring the efficiency norms of its business to get maximum outcome from its outlays.

Companies are expected to adopt the CSR policy drafted by a board committee. In family-controlled businesses, these committees are likely to represent the views and interests of the family. Even in other companies, the principal shareholders will aim to determine the policy. Other board members may play a passive role in determining the purpose, implementation agency, monitoring and evaluation. The policy has to state who are the target populations for the proposed CSR activity, and what this activity will be. Some companies might appoint consultants to help define the tasks and monitor the implementation.

There are many ways of organizing the CSR expenditure. The company might earmark some of its people for the purpose. In some, CSR activity may be a way of training new recruits in the Indian reality by exposing them to these causes. Some companies even attach experienced managers to the activity for a few months or years. Many other companies might see this activity as a diversion from their basic business and will hire outside agencies, particularly for implementation.

In many instances, particularly where the company is related to others with common ownership, all of them might team up to have a single common agency of their own for the CSR activity, its conduct and supervision of the implementation.

But a well-run company will be loath to allow its hard-earned money to be wasted. It will decide on its objectives and target beneficiary populations, set up a management information system to monitor achievements in relation to targets, identify constraints and conceptualize how its experience could be replicated by others in India.

Company annual reports are now being released for the first year after the CSR provision was inserted in the Companies Act. Companies have to make the first annual report on their CSR activity. The CSR expenditure does not stop at the two per cent of profits specified in the act. Companies have to spend on manpower to ensure that the implementation by a partner NGO or by its own CSR department is being done well.

Foreign companies have another problem when they engage NGOs to do the job. Present rules under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act require that the recipient must be registered under FCRA. This is time-consuming (may take three years). A foreign company has to wait to engage the implementing agency. This puts constraints on its CSR expenditure until it sets up its own implementation department.

Tata companies have followed the practice of all their companies pooling their CSR spending. Many years before the recent legislation, each Tata company was working to a set target for its CSR expenditure.The money was given to Tata trusts. This has made Tata the most significant spender on CSR activity in India. Also, these trusts are very professionally-managed and refer to their past experiences in deciding how to select partners, beneficiaries, effective ways of execution, monitoring and evaluation of achievements without interference.

An issue that will hound companies is the question of the ethical soundness of their associate NGO. For example, can a company's donations be used for rehabilitating retired terrorists or their families? If a company or an NGO is engaged in activities said to go against national interests, should it be made a partner?

Some highly-principled NGOs will conduct diligence on potential donor companies. Thus there are NGOs that do not accept money from aerated soft drinks-producers because of the product's adverse effect on child health. Others will not go near Monsanto because of its connection with genetically-modified food against which there is a protest movement in India. NGOs might refuse donations from companies against whom there are rumours or allegations. Similarly, they might avoid environmentally-polluting companies.There are, of course, many NGOs which do not care about the funding sources and their reputations as long as the money is available.

There is also the question of compliance and audits. Well-run companies do not want to see their money wasted. They will set up a strong internal audit system and help the NGOs to keep proper record of expenditures. Donor companies must also ensure that their NGO partners treat their employees in a civilized way, ensure integrity in their work, and so on. This is another cost that the companies have to bear in addition to CSR spends.

Rich entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Azim Premji, Warren Buffett among others, have applied the minds that built their colossal businesses to philanthropy. Many companies have found (Tata, Wipro, Shiv Nadar, Infosys) that good philanthropy also improves corporate image and share values.

Compulsory CSR is here to stay. Companies must prepare themselves to do it well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Some NGOs with foreign funding get access to FCRA director as the series of monthly meetings kicks off today

Out of at least 100 applicants, representatives of 14 organizations were given appointments, according to a document seen by Mint

A top bureaucrat in the Union home ministry on Monday separately met representatives of several non-profit organizations to discuss matters relating to their foreign contributions, in the first of a series of such meetings.

Out of at least 100 applicants who had sought to meet Deba Prasad Tripathy, director, FCRA, representatives of 14 organizations were given appointments, according to a document seen by Mint.

A circular, dated 18 June, on the website of the home ministry’s division which deals with the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), had said the official will meet their representatives for a total of three hours every month. “In order to redress grievances of the associations who have submitted their applications for the grant of registration/prior permission, etc., it has been decided that a monthly meeting will be held by director (FCRA) with genuine representatives of these associations...”, the circular had said.

While representatives of non-profit organizations, who had turned up for the meeting on Monday refused to go on the record about what they discussed, merely indicating that they wanted to take up small technical challenges while filing documents such as annual returns.

An official at a non-profit who had turned up said his Delhi-based organisation had submitted annual returns for 2013-14 three times in the past one year, but its status on the FCRA website had not changed. The organization was not given an appointment on Monday, but after making several calls to the FCRA division, it was assured that the problem will be addressed.

FCRA director Tripathi and joint secretary in the foreigner’s division G.K. Dwivedi declined repeated requests to seek their comments.

Some of the 14 organisations listed for Monday were Hyderabad-based IP India Foundation, a global charity organization set up by American International Paper Ltd, New York-based Vision Spring, which distributes spectacles to the visually impaired, the Indian arm of the international organization Child Help Foundation headquartered in Mumbai which works with underprivileged children, W.H.Y. Foundation (Working for Humanity with You) headquartered in Andhra Pradesh working with the under privileged, Delhi-based Livelihood Initiatives for Empowerment working on livelihood-related research and skill development of poor and India wing of the global network Doctors Without Borders - MSFHolland India Trust.

The foreigner’s division in the home ministry monitors, controls and approves or cancels licences for non-profits who receive overseas funding. It has cancelled thousands of such licences in the last one year, citing various violations. Following this, the division has been flooded with requests to meet the officers in charge, to gain some clarity or to update information.

Organisations like Greenpeace India, Caritas India, Ford Foundation and Teesta Setalvad’s Sabrang Trust have been in the news lately for alleged violations of rules on foreign contributions.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Govt agrees to meet NGOs for their access to foreign funds

Home ministry circular states that the FCRA director will meet NGOs for 3 hours every month to discuss grievances

New Delhi: A government circular saying that a top bureaucrat will meet representatives of agencies over their permission to receive foreign funds has raised hopes for non-profits, some of which have faced crackdown, even as the wording of the circular has left many in doubt.

A circular dated 18 June on the website of the home ministry’s FCRA division, which deals with the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), said the official will meet their representatives for a total of three hours every month by appointment.

“In order to redress grievances of the associations who have submitted their applications for the grant of registration/prior permission, etc., it has been decided that a monthly meeting will be held by director (FCRA) with genuine representatives of these associations...”, the circular said.

In June alone, the ministry cancelled the FCRA registrations of over 6,800 organizations in two separate instances, including the Banaras Hindu University, the Annamalai University and a Unesco learning centre.

The ministry has justified the crackdown based on a June 2014 Intelligence Bureau (IB) report that said that NGOs, such as Greenpeace India, were working against the national interest.

Organizations which have lost their FCRA licence—mandatory to receive foreign funds—have often complained that they were not given a hearing, and that they wanted to discuss licences with the ministry.

To be sure, the circular does not specifically say if appeals against suspension of registration will be entertained.

According to the circular, the aggrieved organizations must email the home ministry seeking an appointment with the name of the organization, and the person attending the meeting, address, application number and issues for discussion.

The FCRA director will meet representatives on the fifth of every month from 10am to 1pm.

If the fifth is a holiday, the meeting will be held on the next working day.

Willy D’Costa, member and former general secretary, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a human rights advocacy group, is unsure how the latest measure will play out. The government had in 2013 cancelled INSAF’s FCRA registration.

“As required by law, we had been filling returns and submitting responses to queries with the ministry, before our licence was suspended in 2013. It was through the bank we got to know and then, we made several attempts to contact the ministry to get a hearing and to show them that all our paperwork was in order. However, it never happened,” said D’Costa.

The organization then moved the Delhi high court, which restored its registration saying the ministry had not followed the due procedure of informing the organization nor had it given it a due hearing mandated in the course of “natural justice”.

INSAF continues to receive foreign funding. D’Costa says he is glad “at least a platform is being made available for interaction”.

According to Biraj Patnaik, principal advisor to the commissioners of the Supreme Court on Right to Food Campaign, “This structured time being provided is a very good thing, because earlier it was very difficult for us to approach anyone at the ministry... There are many organizations which can benefit from this.” Patnaik was unaware of the circular till two days ago.

Amit Behrar, executive director of National Foundation of India, which supports grassroots organizations working on development issues, is upbeat.

“Right from the start, all non-profit agencies cutting across sectors have been demanding a platform for putting forward their case. And this monthly meeting does just that,” he said.

Henri Tiphagne, the executive director of People’s Watch that works for human rights of the underprivileged, said: “I only learnt of this development a week after the circular was put out because I happened to be browsing through the ministry of home affairs’ FCRA website.”

Tiphagne, who unsuccessfully tried to meet the ministry’s officials when his organization’s registration was suspended from July 2012 to March 2014, said: “It is a great opportunity. Previously, we’ve written, called and even approached the ministry at least half a dozen times with no response—no denial or acceptance of our applications seeking appointments.”

Tiphagne, at present, sees no need for People’s Watch to meet with the ministry, but is hoping that if the need arises, he would be able to gain the appointment unlike the “wall of silence” he has faced in the past.

Not everyone is as optimistic.

Voluntary Action Network of India (Vani), an umbrella organization which promotes voluntarism, is one of them.

“We are trying to organize a meeting with FCRA’s director, to gain greater clarity on what this meeting slot will entail—will appeals against cancellations also be heard, or is it to be limited to the ‘associations who have submitted their applications for the grant of registration/prior permission’—as the circular states,” said Vani’s communications manager Arjun Phillips. He said that Vani hopes these meetings will be the first step towards the longstanding demand of the NGOs to have engagement with the authorities.

FCRA director Deba Prasad Tripathy could not be contacted on his office phone. An email sent to him also remained unanswered. His personal assistant, however, informed that applications are pouring in, and the names and time slots for the associations will be announced in a few days.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

India Increases Pressure on NGOs

India is cracking down on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating on its territory, alleging that thousands have misreported their foreign funding to Indian fiscal authorities.

In the past two months alone, the Home Ministry has cancelled registrations of more than 13,000 NGOs for allegedly failing to file annual tax returns for three years since 2009, according to Indian media reports.

As many as two million home-grown or international NGOs – many of which are funded by foreign donors – work across India, largely in the field of development.

The Indian government this past week added Caritas Internationalis, a Catholic charity based at the Vatican and that has been working in India for the past 50 years, to its NGO watch-list.

The government accuses Caritas of violating India’s foreign funding laws by financing groups that were working “against the country,” Agence France-Presse quoted a Home Ministry official as saying Tuesday.

"There was [a] clear violation of foreign funding law," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The case was connected to Caritas’ funding of organizations that had protested against a nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu, in southern India, the official said.

"We have been filing all our returns, documents in time according to law. We necessarily don't find this a hindrance because we anyway declare all our funding to the government," Father Paul V. Moonjely, Assistant Executive Director of Caritas India, told NDTV on June 19.

Caritas is among several high-profile international NGOs that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has accused of violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

The Indian arm of global environmentalist group Greenpeace and the U.S.-based Ford Foundation also were placed on the government’s watch-list.

But last month, the Delhi High Court ordered the government to unfreeze Greenpeace India’s access to bank accounts. These held deposits of money from domestic donors that allowed the NGO to cover its day-to-day operating expenses.

NGO conference relocated to Thailand

The crackdown has prompted the Berlin-based International Civil Society Center to move its “Global Perspectives” conference, which it had been planning to hold in New Delhi, to Thailand, according to a report in The Wire, an Indian news website.

The center describes itself as a “global action platform” for the world’s leading international civil society organizations.

“The reason for changing the venue was our fear that leaders from some of our key stakeholders, such as Greenpeace and others, would not be allowed into the country [India] and that we would fail to achieve our main objective of bringing together all key players irrespective of their political, religious or other approaches and affiliations,” Burkhard Gnärig, the center’s executive director, told The Wire.

Justified or not?

The governmental crackdown on NGOs has elicited a mixed response.

Some observers say the government’s actions are justified.

In their view, the targeted NGOs have failed to deliver any services to the people whom they are registered to serve. Others say this is a clear message from Modi’s government that it won’t tolerate any activities deemed as “anti-state.”

“There has been mushroom growth of NGOs across the country over the years,” Santosh Shukla, president of the NGOs Association of India, told BenarNews.

“The government has the right to cancel registration of such groups which fail to file the annual returns and fulfill other legal requirements on their part. Only those groups that operate within the legal purview and in the interest of the people should be allowed to operate,” he added.

Tapan Bose, a prominent civil society and rights activist, sees the crackdown as uncalled for, saying the government is going after NGOs that are working for people’s welfare.

“The government’s action against these groups has directly affected the poor people in the country as they work for their welfare in multiple ways,” Bose told BenarNews.

"With regard to closing down the operations of the groups, the government has acted in an arbitrary and highly selective manner,” he added.

NGOs: A threat to traditional politics

And, as another observer put it, the crackdown is being driven by a fear of the influence wielded by some NGOs in shaping public opinion, and how this might threaten the government’s political standing.

Prabha Kiran, founder and president of United Human Rights Federation Delhi, an NGO, pointed to a recent case in which NGOs helped bring about a crushing defeat of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party by the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in February’s Delhi Legislative Assembly election.

“The Modi government is fearful of the influence of NGOs as they have played a vital role in exposing the corrupt and fraudulent political parties,” Kiran told BenarNews.

An anti-corruption crusade led by activist Anna Hazare had helped bring about the demise of Congress-led United Progressive Coalition (UPA) in last year’s general election, Kiran noted.

“The Modi government might be expecting the same fate, hence it decided to clamp down on NGOs,” she added.


Caritas funds from Dutch agency under scanner

After the controversy over the Union home ministry’s fresh crackdown on foreign-funded NGOs, the MHA on Wednesday cleared the air saying fund flow from a Netherland-based foreign donor agency Stichting Cordaid to Caritas has come under the scanner since Cordaid is under the prior-approval category.

Cordaid had been placed under prior approval category on Aug. 6, 2012, during the tenure of the UPA-II government. An official statement said the ministry received a reference from Standard Chartered Bank seeking clearance for crediting of an inward remittance of Euro 2,30,000 from Stichting Cordaid in favour of Caritas India, which is an NGO working in India registered under FCRA, 2010.

“Comments of security agency were sought and on the basis of the inputs received from them the matter is under consideration in the ministry,” the statement said. It further said, ‘’Any inward remittance from this agency to any Indian NGO will be credited only after clearance from the ministry of home affairs.” Sources said the IB had raised a red-flag over Cordaid’s fund to Indian NGOs in 2011-12 during the Kudankulam protests prompting the government to put it in the prior-permission category. “Other than Cordaid’s funding to Caritas, we have no problem with the latter receiving money from any other donors,” a top government official said. Meanwhile, security sources also revealed that out of the 16 FCRA registered NGOs, nearly a dozen of them had been put in the prior-permission category during the UPA-II tenure.



Integrated Application for Registration, Prior Permission and Renewal
One integrated form prepared for FCRA registration, Prior permission and Renewal. Till now one had to use different forms for each of these activities, FC3 for registration, FC4 for prior permission and FC5 for renewal, now an integrated form FC3 has been drafted.
Now printed copy of form not to be submitted, instead applications need to be Digitally Signed just like as in Income Tax and Companies Act. All documents required to be submitted in hard copies would now be scanned and submitted alongwith these applications.
Fee would need to be paid online through electronic gateway.

Declaration on web-site
All NGOs granted registration / prior permission would need to post Audited FCRA Accounts would need to be posted on their websites.
Any foreign contribution received would need to be displayed within 7 days of receipt on website.

Annual Return
From now on even annual return (FC6 till now) will no longer need to be filed in printed copy and only Digitally Signed copy would need to be filed alongwith all supporting documents. Time limit still remains of 31st

Requirements from Bankers
All bankers have to inform within 48 hours Central Govt. about receipt of any foreign contribution by any ‘person’ who receives such contribution but till date does not have registration / prior permission. In previous rules this was 30 days.
Bankers are also required to inform within 48 hours the central govt. all remittances received by FCRA registered or having prior permission in their designated or utilization bank accounts.

Changes in Forms
Earlier there were 10 forms (FC1-FC10), these have now been reduced to 7 (FC1-FC7). As mentioned above Form for Registration (FC3), Form for Prior Permission (FC4) and Form for Renewal (FC5) all have been merged in a new form FC3. Also earlier forms for articles (FC7) and securities (FC8) have been merged into one form FC5. Consequentially all other forms have been renumbered in sequential order.

Changes in these forms are highlighted as below:

FC1 (new Form No. FC1): Intimation of receipt of FC by way of gift from relative.
No change except details like e-mail, mobile nu., address etc. now sought.
Still to be submitted in a printed copy.
Normally to be submitted by an individual.

FC2 (new Form No. FC2): Prior permission for receiving hospitality
Normally to be submitted by persons covered under S. 3, (legislature, Govt employees, judges, etc.) who are likely to visit abroad and accept foreign hospitality
Certain changes made in the form but seem more a case of drafting error, as details of organisation, which will provide hospitality seem to have been left out.

FC3 – earlier only covered registration (new Form now covers registration / prior permission / renewal)
Very strange now the form requires details of facebook page and twitter handle of the chief functionary
Now alongwith details of Chief Functionary and executive members/ office bearers, details of Chief Patron are also requested.
In case any of the persons whose details have been provided is a foreign citizen, following additional details are requested:
Place of Birth
Passport No.
Permanent address in foreign country
If a person of Indian origin, then details of OIC/PIO card,
If resident in India, from when,
In case of above persons details of any positions held in any other NGO
Details also asked for organisations which have been granted prior permission / registration and are a unit / branch / associate of the organisation applying.
Has been prohibited under S. 10 or asked to obtain prior permission under S. 9(d).
Details of designated / utilization accounts being asked.
Q 13 asks for details of foreign sources both individuals as well as organisations from whom the foreign contribution is proposed to be received. Most likely this is applicable in case of prior permission where sources are known. However the Form does not mention that this information is not required in case of Registration cases.

FC4 – for annual return (earlier FC6)
Prior permission return earlier used to go manually, now this will have to go online.
Facebook page and twitter handle details of the chief functionary to be given here too.
Total number of employees to be disclosed – This could pose problem as many NGOs are not registered for PF & ESI
It is also asking donor wise details of foreign / local source. Rather perplexed, if a donor is a local source, then it should not appear in FCRA return in any case ?
Now project details are also required along with address of implementation. Now amount has to be given address-wise.
Details of administrative exps. asked for. Earlier no details were required.
Branch office details to be provided
Details of Designated as well as Utilisation Bank Accounts also required to be disclosed
Details of closing balance not asked for.
Now Chief Functionary has to declare that FC has not been used for (i) detrimental to national interest, (ii) not likely to affect prejudicially public interest, (iii) not likely to affect prejudicially security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the State and any matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Many changes in List of purposes to be discussed separately.

Call for proposals: Symposium on State Competitiveness

Deadline: 30 June 2015

The U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section in New Delhi is currently seeking proposals from the legally-recognized non-profit, nongovernmental organizations for the program called Symposium on State Competitiveness with a special focus on the North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, and Haryana (including Union Territory Chandigarh). This initiative aims to share best practices that would allow states to become more competitive, improve the business environment, and promote trade between the U.S. and India.

This initiative will have two program components-

1. A Symposium on State Competitiveness: This symposium will bring together key stakeholders, including state policymakers, industry associations, business leaders, researchers, and strategists, who will discuss economic policy, regulation, and best practices from the Indian and American state context. The event will include discussions on how states can become more competitive by focusing on key areas such as policy reforms, strengthening the institutional framework, improving infrastructure, use of information technology, and encouraging innovation and skill development.

2. A North India Speaking Tour for Two American Experts: This program could include interaction with the Foreign Commercial Services’ American Business Corners (ABCs) in North India and webinars between Indian audiences and U.S. industry representatives. The speaking tour will last for approximately 10 days. The speakers, target cities, and program schedule will be coordinated in collaboration with the Embassy. The speakers chosen could also be part of the symposium, with the speaking tour occurring immediately before or after the symposium.

Award Information

The award amount lies between $ 150,000 to $ 200,000.

Eligibility Criteria

§ Open to all non-profit, non-governmental organizations. Organizations may sub-contract with other entities.

§ Applicants must be registered with before submitting an application.

§ Organizations must have a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number from Dun & Bradstreet and an active SAM registration.

§ The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) of the Government of India applies for Indian applicants.

§ Applicants must acquire all required registrations and rights in the United States and India. All intellectual property considerations and rights must be fully met in the United States and India.

§ Any sub-recipient organization must also meet all the U.S. and Indian requirements described above.

§ Cost sharing is not required for the funding opportunity.

§ Award does not allow for construction activities or costs.

§ The U.S. Mission to India grants cannot be used to fund religious or partisan political activity.

Application Guidelines

§ Applicants must submit their proposals in a prescribed application format and detailed budgets in a prescribed Budget Spreadsheet

§ All documents must be in English

§ All budgets must be in U.S. dollars

§ All pages must be numbered

§ All materials must be submitted in .pdf format

§ Forms SF-424, SF-424A and SF-424B must be completed and submitted with the application.

§ Applicants may submit the following additional information-

§ Budget Narrative

§ Letters of Intent

§ Proof of Non-profit Status

How to Apply

Applicants must submit their proposals together with a cover letter via email. After reviewing, selected applicants will be acknowledged.

For more information, please visit and opportunity number NDRFP16-05.

Government Cancels Licences of 2,406 NGOs

NEW DELHI: In a fresh move, the government has cancelled the licences of 2,406 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) across the country, which includes entities that run schools and hospitals.

In the wake of the cancellation of their registrations, the NGOs would not be able to receive foreign funds. According to official data, Maharashtra tops the list with the cancellation of licences of 964 NGOs followed by Uttar Pradesh with 740 and Karnataka with 614.

The licences of 88 NGOs were cancelled in Tamil Nadu. These cancellations have taken place between June 19 till today, officials said. The decision to cancel the registration of these entities under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act was taken by the Union Home Ministry after the NGOs allegedly failed to submit their annual returns and in view of other anomalies.

All the organisations were given proper notice by the Foreigners' Division of the Home Ministry with adequate time to reply before their FCRA licences were cancelled, official sources said.

Meanwhile, in a related move, Caritas International, linked to the Vatican, may be put on a watch list and it would have to seek prior permission before receiving funds from abroad, official sources said, adding that the bankers of the NGO would be notifying them.

However, a spokesman for the NGO denied having received any such notice and said that the organisation has complied with all laid-down norms. In two earlier rounds of crackdown this year, licences of nearly 13,470 NGOs were cancelled for alleged violation of FCRA

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Government cancels licences of 2,406 NGOs

New Delhi: In a fresh move, the government has cancelled the licences of 2,406 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) across the country, which includes entities that run schools and hospitals.

In the wake of the cancellation of their registrations, the NGOs would not be able to receive foreign funds.

According to official data, Maharashtra tops the list with the cancellation of licences of 964 NGOs followed by Uttar Pradesh with 740 and Karnataka with 614. The licences of 88 NGOs were cancelled in Tamil Nadu.

These cancellations have taken place between June 19 till today, officials said.

The decision to cancel the registration of these entities under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act was taken by the Union Home Ministry after the NGOs allegedly failed to submit their annual returns and in view of other anomalies.

All the organisations were given proper notice by the Foreigners' Division of the Home Ministry with adequate time to reply before their FCRA licences were cancelled, official sources said.

Meanwhile, in a related move, Caritas International, linked to the Vatican, may be put on a watch list and it would have to seek prior permission before receiving funds from abroad, official sources said, adding that the bankers of the NGO would be notifying them.

However, a spokesman for the NGO denied having received any such notice and said that the organisation has complied with all laid-down norms.

In two earlier rounds of crackdown this year, licences of nearly 13,470 NGOs were cancelled for alleged violation of FCRA.


Govt cancels licences of 2,406 NGOs

In a fresh move, the government has cancelled the licences of 2,406 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) across the country, which includes entities that run schools and hospitals.

In the wake of the cancellation of their registrations, the NGOs would not be able to receive foreign funds.

According to official data, Maharashtra tops the list with the cancellation of licences of 964 NGOs followed by Uttar Pradesh with 740 and Karnataka with 614. The licences of 88 NGOs were cancelled in Tamil Nadu.

These cancellations have taken place between June 19 till today, officials said.

The decision to cancel the registration of these entities under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act was taken by the Union Home Ministry after the NGOs allegedly failed to submit their annual returns and in view of other anomalies.

All the organisations were given proper notice by the Foreigners' Division of the Home Ministry with adequate time to reply before their FCRA licences were cancelled, official sources said.

Meanwhile, in a related move, Caritas International, linked to the Vatican, may be put on a watch list and it would have to seek prior permission before receiving funds from abroad, official sources said, adding that the bankers of the NGO would be notifying them.

However, a spokesman for the NGO denied having received any such notice and said that the organisation has complied with all laid-down norms.

In two earlier rounds of crackdown this year, licences of nearly 13,470 NGOs were cancelled for alleged violation of FCRA.