While the Home Ministry has decided to put grants from US-based Ford Foundation under the “prior approval category” and also on its watch list in the interest of “national security”, some government-backed educational and research institutes that receive grants from the Foundation have said the US-based organisation helped build institutions in India.
Among the beneficiaries of such grants are at least 10 that are also funded and supported by the government. These include IIT-Bombay, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Jamia Milia Islamia, National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR) University, Hyderabad and Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Health Sciences and Technology in Thiruvananthapuram.
“Ford Foundation… has invested in long-term institution building in India. Its grants are generally not tied to any specific short-term outcomes. I would say it… never interferes in your work once it has assessed your need and decided to make a grant,” said Pratap Bhanu Mehta of Centre of Policy Research, which gets funds from the Foundation and the Indian Council of Social Science Research, a Government of India body. CPR’s website says that in 2013-14, it received just over Rs 50 lakh from ICSSR and about Rs 62.3 lakh from the Foundation.
Mehta’s views were shared by S Parasuraman of TISS. “We have a very long association with the Ford Foundation and I can say it is a very objective organisation. It has funded some key projects and has been instrumental in setting up a number of institutions on women’s studies and health studies. I don’t think there is any agenda here,” Parasuraman said.
The Ford Foundation, on its part, had said it was aware of the inquiry into Sabrang and had responded “swiftly and thoroughly” to the queries of Gujarat police. “The foundation does not currently have a relationship with Sabrang or its principals,” the foundation’s India head Kavita Ramdas said in an email.
Faizan Mustafa, vice-chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, said: “Maybe it is related to one particular grant to one particular organisation. Otherwise, the terms for awarding the grant very clearly say…that the money must not be used for any political purpose, or for promoting violence or terrorism and many other things,”he said.
Mehta of the CPR said a check-and-balance mechanism already existed to ensure that funds did not reach wrong hands. “Every such grant has to be approved by the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA). The second check is that all the recipients have to be FCRA compliant. By casting doubts over these grants, are we not doubting the DEA by implication?” he asked.