September 4, 2015 4:01:10 am
Four months after the government asked Ford Foundation to route its grants in India through the Home Ministry, the organisation has transferred its country head, Kavita Ramdas, to its headquarters in New York.
In an email addressed to “extended family”, Ramdas indicated that her move might be linked to the government’s probe against the foundation for its grants to Sabrang Trust run by activist Teesta Setalvad. Ramdas wrote in the email that the government was “particularly displeased” about the grants and that it would take a long time for the foundation to normalise relations.
“…last year…has been rocky with the Government of India challenging civil society in India at all levels and being particularly displeased with the Ford Foundation’s support some years ago to well-known human rights activist Teesta Setalvad. While these events long preceded my tenure at the foundation, and while the foundation has since sought to signal an effort to reset the relationship between Ford and GoI, moving forward we were aware that this likely to be a long term effort with many more bumps along the way,” Ramdas wrote.
Admitting that she had intended to have a longer tenure as the foundation’s representative in New Delhi, she wrote that the plan had to be altered because of the government’s stance towards the foundation.
“In the process, our plans for a slightly longer Indian sojourn have been “modi-fied” so to speak!,” she wrote.
When contacted, Ramdas directed The Indian Express to a statement the foundation released announcing her transfer to New York where she will work from November as advisor to its president Darren Walker.
Apart from praising the work done by Ramdas in India, the statement quoted Walker as saying: “Our priority is to ensure that our work and that of the organisations we support is tailored to each unique setting where we operate, responding meaningfully to local contexts and the many appearances of inequality.”
Earlier this year, the Gujarat police had initiated an inquiry into alleged financial mismanagement at the Sabrang Trust, including the grants it had received from the Ford Foundation. In April, the Home Ministry had placed the foundation on a ‘watch-list’ and said all of the foundation’s grants would henceforth have to be cleared by the ministry.
On August 11, the Bombay High Court granted anticipatory bail to Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand who were booked by the CBI under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
It is alleged that the Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace, run by the couple, received foreign funds, including from Ford Foundation, without government approval and diverted the amount to Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt Ltd.
The government has accused the trust of acting like an “agent” in India for Ford Foundation.
Setalvad and Anand have also been at the forefront of various agitations and legal battles with the Gujarat government over its alleged role in the 2002 riots.
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