‘Give NGOs same ease as corporates to access foreign funds’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on May 08, 2015

150 civil society organisations write open letter to PM, seek dialogue 

Concerned over the Narendra Modi Government’s ‘crackdown’, civil society activists on Friday questioned the “arbitrary manner” in which some NGOs were being “targeted” and urged the Government to ensure that civil society organisations have the same measure of access to foreign funds as corporates.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, about 150 civil society organisations said “in an increasingly globalised world, where even business interests freely collaborate across national boundaries, to label any individual or NGO that engages with international forums or any donor who supports such NGOs, as ‘anti-national’ is illogical.”

Citing frozen funds and ‘selective leaks’ of intelligence reports leading to case-by-case clearance of disbursal of funds, the organisations said while they were open to regulation and scrutiny, the Government should not become “prey to unfounded suspicion and distrust.”

“The Government has double standards on transparency, as it is not giving access to information sought through RTIs,” said Anjali Bhardwaj, a food rights activist.

She said while the Government demands the highest levels of accountability from NGOs, it is “reneging on promises on every count,” adding that in the last one year, the major agencies mandated to promote transparency and accountability, such as the Central Information Commission, the Central Vigilance Commission and Lokpal have either remained headless or simply not constituted.

The letter sought an immediate dialogue between the NGO sector and government, while asserting that welfare work and empowerment of people entails questioning and protesting decisions taken by governments, which is “both our right and our responsibility as civil society actors in a democratic nation.”

The civil society organisations have come together after the Home Ministry recently froze the accounts of environmental non-profit Greenpeace and asked Ford Foundation to submit all its funding for clearance. The US Ambassador to India Richard Verma recently expressed concern over the government’s move to regulate NGOs, saying that “a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our (Indian and US’s) democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs.”

Published on May 08, 2015
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