India clarifies denial of foreign funds license to UK based OXFAM.
The Indian government has admitted to having shared with the UK the details of the status of Oxfam India’s application for renewal of its license for receiving and using foreign funds in the country.
“The government of the United Kingdom raised the issue of the status of Oxfam India under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, during the bilateral dialogue held on February 10,” Federal Junior Home Minister Nityanand Rai told the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, on March 15.
The minister said India had shared details with the UK while explaining that the renewal application was rejected as it “did not fulfill the eligibility criteria specified in the FCRA and rules made thereunder.”
Oxfam India is an autonomous Indian organization that is part of a global confederation of 21 Oxfams across the world. It is registered as a non-profit organization under provisions of the Indian Companies Act, 2013.
In December 2021, the organization was refused renewal of its FCRA license, which is mandatory for receiving foreign donations, along with a plethora of other institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi), Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, Indian Institute of Public Administration, Nehru Museum, Goa Football Association and the Press Institute of India.
The government’s decision to refuse renewal of its FCRA registration will severely affect its crucial humanitarian and social work in 16 states across the country, Oxfam India had claimed.
“This includes setting up of oxygen plants, providing lifesaving medical and diagnostic equipment such as oxygen cylinders and ventilators and delivery of food to the most vulnerable communities during the Covid-19 pandemic,” it had said.
This was not the first time that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had acted against non-government organizations by crippling the flow of foreign funds. His pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allied organizations have often opposed foreign funds, suspecting they were being used for funding conversions to Christianity.
In January, after the controversial order was passed, the United Christian Forum (UCF), a body of Catholic leaders in India, had wondered what was being achieved by “stopping the funds flowing in from outside India.”
“The latest action of not renewing the FCRA licenses of particular organizations makes clear the government’s intention to target them as part of its hidden agendas,” said A.C. Michael, convener of the UCF.
However, some social workers in Guwahati in the northeastern state of Assam admitted that some organizations did “misuse” foreign funds. “There are organizations supposed to be working for leprosy or mental health care. But when their activists took part in protests against the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act in January 2020, we knew some adverse reaction was on the cards,” one of them had told UCA News.
Federal Home Ministry officials maintain funds meant for curing leprosy “cannot be used to raise anti-India slogans and banners and undertake protest on purely political issues.”
But most organizations faced with official wrath are known for their anti-Modi government stance. Bureaucrat-turned-activist Harsh Mander’s Center for Equity Studies and Oxfam India fell into that category, some say.
Mander is seen as someone close to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The Legal Rights Observatory (LRO), a pro-government outfit, had welcomed the government decision in January. “Are you convinced @OxfamIndia now that you were actually doing harm to Assam tea only to kill employment, to promote #RiceBag conversions of those losing tea employment n to promote militancy at the behest of foreign tea companies?” it said in a tweet.
In 2019, Oxfam India in its report had said: “Workers on tea plantations in the Assam region of India are systematically denied their rights to a living wage and decent working and living conditions.”
Notably, in November 2021, Modi’s trusted aide and national security adviser Ajit Doval had cautioned Indian police personnel about the “new generation enemy that is the social organizations.”
Even the Missionaries of Charity were found ineligible when late at night on Dec. 31, 2021, the FCRA registrations of close to 6,000 organizations lapsed. MHA sources said while 5,789 of these NGOs had not applied for renewal, the applications of the rest had been rejected due to “various irregularities.”