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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Rajya Sabha passes FCRA amendment bill

Replying to a debate on the Bill, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said the legislation was not against any NGO and is an effort to maintain transparency.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: September 23, 2020 9:08:04 pm
Many prominent MPs were missing from the Monsoon Session of Parliament this year. (PTI)

Parliament on Wednesday passed a Bill to amend the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act to make furnishing of Aadhaar numbers by office-bearers of NGOs mandatory for registration, with the government asserting that the proposed legislation is aimed at transparency and not against any NGO.

The Upper House passed the Bill amid the Opposition boycotting proceedings over suspension of eight MPs.

Replying to a debate on the Bill, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said the legislation was not against any NGO and is an effort to maintain transparency.

He added, “This is certainly a Bill to bring transparency. It is not against NGOs in any case. But only those NGOs which do not adhere to transparency may feel bad. This Bill is in the interest of NGOs and transparency.”

The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on Monday and will now be sent to the President for his assent.

The minister said that this Bill was necessary in the context of internal security of the country as there are earlier instances where NGOs did not disclose their foreign funding and also did not furnish proper audit of their expenditure.

He quoted former finance minister P Chidambaram, who had told Parliament earlier that “about Rs 20,000 crore funding was received by NGOs but nobody knew where did the Rs 10,000 crore out of it go”.

On concerns expressed by some members about the new provision of mandatorily opening of an account with the State Bank of India, Delhi, to receive foreign funding by NGOs, he said, the government has chosen SBI because it has branches in every part of the country.

He further told the House that NGOs don’t need to come to Delhi for opening the account in SBI and they can apply through their nearest branch of the nationalised bank to comply with the new provision.

He also told the House that NGOs would be able to transfer funds conveniently from the SBI Delhi account to their other local bank accounts.

About making the furnishing of Aadhaar number by members of NGOs mandatory, he told the House that as per the apex court order, the government can bring a law to use Aadhaar to identify certain categories of people.

He said some of the members of the NGO earlier wanted to conceal the identity of their members.

Participating in the debate, BJP leader Arun Singh said it will streamline foreign funds received by NGOs and ensure that it is being used for their mission and objectives. He alleged misuse of funds by some NGOs that funded extremists and “anti-national” outfits.

S R Balasubramoniyan (AIADMK) said there is nothing wrong in seeking Aadhaar of members of an NGO as provided in the Bill.

He was of the view that during the pandemic, NGOs have provided jobs and done social service and all those who are doing good work should not be bulldozed. He said the intention of the Bill is good but it would have bad implications if concerns of members are not addressed.

Prashanta Nanda of the BJD said the government should ensure that genuine NGOs are not harassed.

Ram Chandra Prasad Singh (JDU) and K R Kumar (TDP) also participated in the debate and supported the Bill.

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