• Tuesday, June 28, 2022

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UK drilling down on charity licences in India

Lord Tariq Ahmad, Britain’s minister of state for the Commonwealth (Photo by Matt Dunham – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

THE UK government said it is drilling down on India’s refusal to renew foreign funding licences of a large number of charities.

Peers in the House of Lords of the UK Parliament debated the issue following a question raised by crossbench peer Lord Harries of Pentregarth on Thursday (6), asking what representations the British government had made to its Indian counterparts about the “blocking of overseas funds for the Missionaries of Charity and other non-governmental organisations”.

Under India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), the charity founded by Mother Teresa in Kolkata was recently denied renewal along with other NGOs, a move the south Asian country said is a matter of “routine processing” under “well-established procedure and long-standing administrative practice”.

“We are aware of some non-governmental organisations that face difficulties in India due to the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act by the Indian government, and that some have recently had applications to renew their foreign funding licences rejected,” said Lord Tariq Ahmad, the UK’s minister of state in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

“On the issue of the licence in India, I have looked into this specifically, and we do not know why its applications were rejected. I have asked and pressed to see the kinds of numbers that currently exist,” he said, referring to the Missionaries of Charity.

Lord Harries asked whether the action against the charity was to prevent people coming “into contact with Christianity and eventually convert to it”.

“Among the 12,580 organisations whose licences have ceased to exist, some ceased to exist because they did not submit their applications in time, and others were rejected for other reasons. There are Christian NGOs, but there are also 250 Hindu NGOs and more than 250 Muslim NGOs, so whether this is specifically against Christian organisations is not shown by the data, but I am requesting further information in this respect,” Lord Ahmad said.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked if the government had studied the list of organisations that have lost their licences, which number “as high as 3,000”.

Lord Ahmad replied: “Because of the constructive nature of our engagement, we are able to raise this not just with the Indian High Commission here in London but in a constructive manner with the Indian government directly”.

“The noble Lord points to specific numbers. As I alluded to earlier, I have asked specifically for a drill-down on the numbers over a period, so that I can analyse directly which organisations are impacted and the reasons why these licences have been revoked, to allow us to make much more qualified representation,” Lord Ahmad said.

The debate, which involved a section of cross-party peers, covered concerns around international civil society organisations being hampered in their work to fight poverty in India and also raised the issue of organisations such as Amnesty International and Oxfam being “starved of funds” in India.

Lord Ahmad said the UK government had taken up the issue of Amnesty International directly but that it continues to “provide challenge”.

“However, because of our lobbying and representations, we welcomed the recent High Court decision in Karnataka which allowed Amnesty to access some of its funds,” the minister said.

The Indian high commission in London said it would not like to comment on a discussion between members of Parliament.

It, however, said in a statement, “… this is a matter of routine processing by India’s ministry of home affairs of renewal applications for FCRA approval submitted by thousands of India-based entities including the Missionaries of Charity.”

“An examination of facts would make it clear that no single community, religion or source of funding has been particularly targeted or any accounts are frozen by the government of India. It would be seen that all these applications for renewal of FCRA licences have been processed as per well-established procedure and long-standing administrative practice which, in most countries, are recognised as a part of good governance,” the statement said.
(PTI)

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