The frosty relations between the US-based Ford Foundation and the Modi government are showing signs of thawing. The foundation - which had irked the government for having donated huge sums of money to Modi critic Teesta Setalvad's NGO - will now be off the 'prior permission' list.
The 'prior approval' list comprises a group of organisations under government scanner for alleged 'anti-India' activities. As a result, every time these organisations - mostly headquartered outside the country - transfer money to an Indian account, they have to seek the permission of the home ministry. Before the BJP government decided to crack down on these NGOs and funding organisations last year, they could transfer money directly to the recipients in India as long as they were following the provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act (FCRA).
Ford Foundation, on its part, froze all the donations and fundings that they were slated to make to several NGOs and individuals in India for developmental work. Investigating the aftermath of the fall-out, Reuters reported in 2015, "Among NGOs hit by the Ford Foundation's funding freeze is the Joint Women's Programme, which campaigns for the empowerment of women and children. Last year, Ford Foundation accounts show it gave $30,000 to the NGO, run by a 77-year-old retired professor of English, that helped set up a computer training centre and hire three teachers for 160 children in a slum near Delhi. This year the NGO was due another tranche that has not come through, so it halved the number of children it looks after and can no longer afford to provide kids with fruit and milk."
According to various reports, Ford Foundation has pumped in funding worth at least $500 million in India since it opened its India office in 1952. After it stopped the funding process, a spokesperson told Reuters, "We don't want to move ahead until the time we are clear about the rules and nothing we do is viewed as illegal."
While the real reason behind the the government softening its stance on Ford Foundation is still unclear, according to a report on The Economic Times, the organisation still has to inform the MHA while receiving donations from foreign donors, though it doesn't have to seek its permission.
ET reports: "Ford Foundation has been allowed by government to operate in India under Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema), and therefore the ministerial watchdog will be finance ministry. Other NGOs operate under the ambit of the Foreign Contribution Registration Act (FCRA) and the ministerial watchdog is the home ministry."
The foundation had drawn government ire after it made a $250,000 grant to Teesta Setalvad's NGO. Alongside clamping down on Ford Foundation, a CBI inquiry was also instituted against Setalvad on allegations that she has embezzled the said funds to her NGOs -- Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust. Her house was raided and an attempt to arrest her was made but a Supreme Court order came in the way.
The Hindu reports that the Ford Foundation decided to comply to the government's demand to register itself under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999. Registering itself under FEMA will allow the organisation to receive funding from foreign sources in its accounts.
"The Ford Foundation, which has been operating in India since 1952, was not registered either as an NGO or under any other category like the Indian Society Act till now," the report says. An unnamed government official said the organisation will be taken off the 'prior approval' list 'soon'.
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