The sheer number of cancelling of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) renewal applications of NGOs is mindboggling. According to reports, as many as 20,675 permissions under the FCRA have been cancelled since 2011. Surprisingly, 80 percent of these cancellations took place after 2014, coinciding with the BJP-led government, under Narendra Modi, coming to power in the Centre. Further, the FCRA registration of around 6,000 NGOs and associations is deemed to have ceased or expired on January 1, 2022, which is nothing less than choking the NGO sector to death.
Many of those NGOs and civil society organizations, on whom the axe has fallen, are working among the most underprivileged sections of the society. Many are strenuously striving for economic and gender justice among Adivasis, Dalits, and the marginalized. They are rendering humanitarian and social services to those people where the arms of the government and its agencies hardly reach. The humanitarian work being rendered by the Missionaries of Charity (MC) is beyond the working of any government or its organs.
An anecdote from the annals of the activities of MC Sisters is illuminating. Once, a complaint reached the Kolkata Police Commissioner against Mother Teresa and her Congregation accusing them of indulging in proselytization. The Commissioner himself went to check. Later he reportedly told the complainant, ‘If you can do what they are doing, I will get them out.’ Yes, they bandage the wounds of the leprosy patients; they carry the disabled in their hands; they clean and feed the tiny tots left in garbage dumps; they hug and keep the mentally challenged close to their heart; they allow the dying to lie in their laps. Which government and its agencies will do it is anybody’s guess?
Most NGOs work as an extension of the government and take up works where the latter may not reach in times of need. The earthquakes, floods, tsunami, the pandemic and such calamities have brought out shining examples of heroic works of many an NGO. They work at the last mile where government’s programmes fail to reach. Hence, it is unfortunate that the government looks at them as an adversary. Its skepticism emerges from the fact that some of them work as human right watch dogs and expose the anti-people programmes of the government.
Foreign funding can be stopped if the NGOs concerned are indulging in anti-national activities; supporting terrorist organizations; conspiring to overthrow the government; involved in activities proscribed by the law of the land. But, Missionaries of Charity, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Jamia Millia Islamia, Lawyer’s Collective of Indira Jaising and Anand Grover and hundreds of such NGOs and social organizations haven’t indulged in any such activity. Still, they have been denied foreign funding, which is essential for continuing with their work, on the basis of some mysterious ‘adverse inputs’ as stated in the case of Missionaries of Charity.
Many NGOs and civil society organizations have become eyesores for the government and right-wing groups. Their pro-people, compassionate and human-centred activities have become a thorn in their flesh. Some of the NGOs working with Dalits, tribals and minorities have exposed the highhandedness of the government and its law-enforcing agencies. A government which cannot stomach dissent and criticism is bound to pull the plug by choking the dissenters and critics. And we are witnessing such a scenario right in front of us.