Amid Opposition allegations that the government wants to target the minorities and NGOs by blocking their resources, the Lok Sabha passed the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, cleared by Rajya Sabha with voice vote.
Among other provisions, the Bill proposes a ban on transfer of foreign contribution from one FCRA-registered NGO to another.
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai maintained that changes in the Bill aim to “ensure that he foreign money coming to India is not used against national interests, or in any anti-national activities”.
Replying to a brief debate, Rai said: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants the country to be safe. Past mistakes have endangered the country. As far as national, cultural and economic security is concerned, we want India to be self-reliant. This Bill is neither against the minorities nor against NGOs. We are just trying to bring transparency in their functioning.”
The Opposition, led by the Congress, alleged that the government has a “political agenda” behind the changes incorporated in the Bill. “On one hand, the government invites foreign funds, but when such funds come for educational and charitable purposes, it is being blocked. We want to know how much foreign funds have come into PMCARES Fund,” Leader of Congress in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury asked.
Congress member Anto Antony, who initiated the debate, alleged that the Bill was another “Quixotic adventure” like the demonetisation exercise and is meant only “to suffocate the thousands of NGOs”. He said the government’s move to block foreign funds for many NGOs have left thousands of children helpless and suffering.
But BJP’s Satpal Singh maintained that many NGOs, mainly the Christian ones, have been misusing the funds to “convert” people from Hinduism. Referring to Australian missionary Graham Staines, who was burnt to death along with his sons in Odisha by Hindutva activists in 1999, Singh, a former Mumbai Police commissioner, said his attempts at religious conversion had played a role behind the killing.
Condemning Singh’s remark, Supriya Sule (NCP) said “no law allows you to burn down a family alive”. She also took offence to Singh’s remarks that NGOs were involved in conversion and said: “You are taking one example to show the thousands of NGOs which are doing service to humankind. Stop bulldozing good work. This government thinks everyone is bad. This is like Emergency without calling it so.”
DMK’s V Kalanidhi took a swipe at the government saying it is trying to burn down a house just to kill some bugs. His remark that people from Hindu community, especially Dalits, are converting to other religions because their parent religion does not respect them triggered noisy protests from the treasury benches.
Sougata Roy of TMC called the Bill “Big Brother is Watching”.
Shiv Sena’s Appa Barna supported the Bill and asked the government to bring more stringent safeguards to stop foreign funds that are used for “anti-national activities.”
IUML’s E T Mohammad Basheer and Congress member Vincent Pala alleged that the Bill has a religious bias and is meant to harass the minorities.
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