MANY prominent higher education institutions, including Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University (DU), IIT-Delhi and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), are among several hundred organisations which have been barred by the Centre from receiving foreign funds. The Union Home Ministry has cancelled their registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) as they have reportedly failed to file their annual returns for the last five years.
No organisation or institution is allowed to receive funds from abroad unless it is registered under FCRA. It is mandatory for such organisations to submit their annual income and expenditure statements to the government. An educational institution, for instance, needs its FCRA registration number to receive donations from its alumni based abroad.
Among the other organisations whose FCRA licences have been revoked are: the Supreme Court Bar Association, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Panjab University, Gargi College (Delhi), Lady Irwin College (Delhi), Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, Armed Forces Flag Day Fund, School Of Planning & Architecture (Delhi) and FICCI Socio Economic Development Foundation.
The Doon School Old Boys Association, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College (Delhi), Dr Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia International Trust, Co-ordinating Voluntary Adoption Resource Agency, Bombay Diocesan Society, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (Karnataka), Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health (Bengaluru), Shri Mahatma Gandhi Charitable Trust (Gujarat) and Sri Satya Sai Trust have also been barred from receiving donations from abroad.
A Home Ministry official said these organisations failed to file their returns for five consecutive years, 2010-11 to 2014-15, despite being served repeated notices.
When contacted by The Indian Express, IIT-Delhi Director V Ramgopal Rao said, “I’m not aware of this. But IIT-Delhi has nothing to hide. I’m sure we would have filed our returns. This seems like a procedural issue and we will sort this out with the government.”
Promila Kumar, acting principal of Gargi College, said, “We have filed our returns. In fact, we got a reminder about filing returns recently and we informed the government that we have already complied. I’m not sure why this has happened.”
The Vice-Chancellors of JNU and DU did not respond to calls or text messages.
ICMR Director General Soumya Swaminathan claimed that the matter had been resolved. The ICMR is funded by the Government of India, through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and headed by a Secretary-rank official.
But a government official maintained that “following a review, ICMR’s licence was cancelled as it failed to comply with MHA’s directions”. The office of Health Minister J P Nadda clarified that ICMR had “slipped on some paperwork”.
“The Home Ministry had written to ICMR earlier this year, saying that it has FCRA exemption. However, as per the rules, it is required to submit an annual report to the Home Ministry on the receipt and utilisation of funds. That report will be submitted shortly, with whatever other formality that is required. We expect this to be sorted out in the next couple of days,” said an advisor to the minister.
“Those registered under FCRA were given time to file their annual returns and link their bank accounts. Some of the government-aided NGOs claimed that they were exempted. However, they were told to file their documents… Those who failed to submit their returns stand to lose their FCRA licences. The organisation can, however, appeal against the cancellation, which will be considered on merit,” said a Home Ministry spokesperson.
In May, as a one-time measure, all NGOs were given one month to file their annual returns without payment of penalty.
“This was followed by regular email alerts from May 19, 2017 to June 14, 2017… daily SMS alerts from May 5, 2017 to June 14, 2017.
However, despite sufficient and adequate notice, it was observed that thousands of NGOs had not uploaded their annual returns for three or more than three years within the stipulated time,” said a ministry official.
Meanwhile, the Home Ministry has directed 1,222 NGOs across the country to validate the bank accounts in which they receive foreign funds, failure of which will invite punitive action. The list includes Sri Ramakrishna Math, Ramakrishna Mission, Indore Cancer Foundation Charitable Trust, Coimbatore Christian Charitable Trust, Delhi School of Social Work Society, Hindu Anath Ashram, Madani Darut Tarbiyat, Rehmat E Alam Hospital Trust (Anantnag), Rotary Club of Mumbai Midwest, Goonj, Madina Education and Charitable Society, Nagaland Bible College, Indian Institute for Nature and Environment Study.
In a circular, the ministry said all NGOs registered under FCRA should receive foreign donations in a single designated bank account. However, many organisations had not validated these accounts, causing problems for the banks which are required to report receipt of foreign funds within 48 hours, said the ministry.