As the representative of 500 NGOs from across the country, the Voluntary Action Network India (VANI) has petitioned the home ministry about the renewal of the NGOs’ Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act licenses. VANI has asked the ministry to either expedite the renewal process to meet the October 31 deadline, after which the NGOs will not be able to receive or utilise their funds without the licence, or to extend the deadline to December 31.
Arjun Kumar Phillips, a representative of VANI, told The Wire that the organisation has written to home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi seeking immediate action on the matter. “There are between 14,000 to 15,000 organisations which are yet to get the approvals for the renewal of their FCRA licences,” he said.
Given the large number of organisation still waiting, VANI has appealed to the ministry’s FCRA wing to process pending renewals. But, it said, the department has neither shared any information nor hastened the process of renewing licences.
VANI said the FCRA validity of all these organisations will expire on October 31, “which means NGOs will not be able to receive or utilise their funds without their renewed licenses”. It noted that “many NGOs are perplexed about their future as banks have started serving notices for freezing accounts, giving no option to organisations but to seize or even terminate their activities”.
The FCRA monitors and controls foreign funding to voluntary organisations and wields extensive discretionary powers, providing negligible scope for grievance redressal. The Act is governed by the home ministry and mandates NGOs to renew their foreign funding licenses every five years or face cancellation.
In a statement, VANI said this year the renewal process commenced from April and many organisations had been granted their licenses. “However, a large chunk of large and small scale NGOs are eagerly awaiting their renewal clearance in order to continue their operations.”
It also pointed out that earlier this year, the ministry had amended the rules and initiated a novel step for interfacing with NGOs every month. However, following the renewal process, the department has discontinued any form of communication, both verbal or electronic.
With there being no information flow on the status of the FCRA renewal applications, VANI petitioned the ministry to extend the validity of the existing licences to December 31 or accelerate the process of clearing the pending renewals so as to cover all applicants by October 31.
According to Phillips, there have already been three extensions of the deadline so far, but what is unnerving the NGOs is the silence from the ministry on the issue this time. “Moreover, it is festival season and only two working days now remain –Friday and Monday – in the month. So we are seeking an extension of the deadline to quell the anxieties of the voluntary sector.”
VANI also stated that since many NGOs are partnering with the government in its flagship programmes, social development may take a hit if their licences are not renewed in time. Therefore it has appealed to the home ministry to issue a circular to extend the validity of FCRA licenses or process the renewals within the remaining few days before the deadline so as to alleviate fears.