Steps against NGOs may have chilling effects: US

After the Ford Foundation was put on the watch list, the US State Department had protested against the decision.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: May 7, 2015 6:24 am
Richard Verma was delivering a lecture on the 'Foundation of the US-India strategic-plus relationship' at Ananta Aspen Institute, a think-tank. Richard Verma was delivering a lecture on the ‘Foundation of the US-India strategic-plus relationship’ at Ananta Aspen Institute, a think-tank.

US ambassador to India Richard Verma Wednesday expressed “concern” over the “potentially chilling effects” of regulatory steps taken by the Narendra Modi government against certain NGOs, including the Ford Foundation.

“Both of our countries are home to vibrant and vocal civil society organisations seeking change in every conceivable area. India is home to a vibrant community of over two million legally registered NGOs. The US also has a robust civil society community,” he said.

READ: US expresses concern over India’s crackdown on Ford Foundation and Greenpeace

“With so many voices engaged in the debate, there are sure to be some whose views others find objectionable. That is part of the beauty of the vibrant, thriving democracies we have chosen. I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by NGOs operating in India. Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focussed on NGOs,” he added.

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Verma was delivering a lecture on the ‘Foundation of the US-India strategic-plus relationship’ at Ananta Aspen Institute, a think-tank.

He said those who act peacefully to seek change are not anti-government, nor are they trying to weaken national security. “I believe in the inalienablhoe right of citizens in a democratic society to argue peacefully for a government they believe is more just, more moral, and more reflective of their individual beliefs. This is the same right that found a manifestation in Gandhiji’s satyagrahas in Africa and India,” he added.

READ: Gujarat govt accuses Ford Foundation of FEMA violation

In a crackdown on NGOs allegedly receiving illegal foreign funds, the government last month cancelled the licences of nearly 9,000 such entities for violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

The US-based Ford Foundation has also been put on the ‘watch list’ by the Home Ministry, which directed that funds coming from the international donor suld not be released by any bank to any Indian NGO without mandatory permission from it. The government also barred Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds.

Verma said he was looking forward to some tough discussions with India on certain issues, indicating that action against NGOs may be one of them. “I also know there will be times when we disagree, and I look forward to those conversations, too,” he said.

After the Ford Foundation was put on the watch list, the US State Department had protested against the decision. The issue is also understood to have been raised by under secretary for political affairs Wendy Sherman during her meetings with senior Indian officials here last week.

The US envoy said the perception is that “regulatory actions that are being taken (against NGOs) could have a chilling effect on speech and expression”.

Asserting that democracy was much more than elections, Verma said, “We cannot avoid hard questions in the name of political expediency. We cannot avoid discussions simply because we might not like the answers.”

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  1. D
    Dipak Bose
    May 7, 2015 at 4:33 pm
    BAN American NGOs and there will be more free F-35 for stan.
  2. A
    May 7, 2015 at 8:58 am
    This is the trouble with USA, always the big brother. Does not India have the right to choose its own path to progress? Why, in the name of NGOs, US must intervene and do "cavity-checks after cavity-checks"? It is nauseating to even at times call, US our friend/ well-wisher/ strategic-partner/ similar democracies and so on. Now, it has been proved beyond doubts that US wants to interfere and that too, without any questioning under multiple garbs. I shudder to think even about future in absence of Indian controls on everything called, "Social media" and the internet with all servers located there by which , USA has added advantage to snoop very-well. Frightening, indeed. Happenings in USA with socially-disadvantaged shows its double-standards. India must always keep in mind that ,"USA thinks Indian is lesser Nation vis-a-vis USA and it somehow feels it has right to intervene and question , as big brother. Are we still juveniles?"
  3. A
    Anjam Desi
    May 8, 2015 at 6:32 am
    US cares about its own interests and India needs to ball up and put its interests first. Learn from China, they don't put up with Muslim fanatics and Western pressure. stan will get its planes with or without India's complaints. Why? Because US is acting on its own interests not India's. Indian media is its own worst enemy.
  4. V
    May 11, 2015 at 6:16 pm
  5. S
    Swami Gnani
    May 7, 2015 at 6:38 am
    The most unwise and shallow arguments put forth by RV. First, every country has a right to scrutinize the organizations that pose a threat to its security. Only after full due diligence the funds should be released and the activities monitored. US does the same thing as well but wants to put a different yard stick for other countries, especially if it is a developing country. Also, it is high time these folks understand the culture of the country before giving lectures from the pulpit...we have our own ways of essing and doing things and it doesn't have to fit the anglo saxon lens!!
  6. R
    May 7, 2015 at 7:19 am
    Why should these NGO's run amok in India. This is not some political vendetta. GOI has sovereign right to what it thinks right for security of nation.
  7. R
    May 7, 2015 at 7:41 am
    This sounds like an open threat!!
  8. G
    Girish Rao
    May 7, 2015 at 6:18 am
    I smell.the presence of a lobby working over hard. . .
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