Intro: The foreign funded NGOs are an embodiment of corporate and capitalist interests, a by-product of Capitalism. India has to empower its existing public and private system and increase their efficiency to overcome these ‘ Trojan Horses ’.
The recent spate of incidents in relation with the foreign funded Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) has opened up a debate over the veracity of the serious allegations against NGOs. After freezing the accounts and cancelling the licence of the Greenpeace, the Government of India has put the Ford Foundation under watch list. The decision has sent out a strong message to all other like-minded organisations that are undermining the sovereignty of the nation. The suspected NGOs have been under the lens of Intelligence Bureau (IB) for the last many years. The rift between the State and NGOs is neither unprecedented nor unusual in the world. It has no such as developed or developing, East or West etc. As the BJP led Government is at the other end, the media, both Indian and Foreign, have given a negative connotation to it. The moot point is the threat posed by the foreign funded NGOs to the security and the national interest. On the contrary, the debate has become pointless as it is being discussed whether the Government is wary of social activism.
In July last year, IB said that the Greenpeace and other lobby groups were damaging the country’s economy by campaigning against power projects, mining and genetically modified food. We can never ignore the contributions of the NGOs. In 2009, it was estimated that around 3.3 million NGOs were operating in India. But necessarily we have to ensure that their activities do not pose any threat to the integrity, security and sovereignty of our nation. It is clearly evident that there have been several attempts from the foreign aided NGOs to interfere in the domestic affairs of the country and destabilise many developmental projects. In this backdrop, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) reveals that over 20 per cent of the foreign contribution is being made for doubtful purposes. In another shocking revelation, the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry has found that nearly 90 per cent of around 1,400 NGOs seeking financial grants under a major training and employment scheme were fake. Such grave incidents point the finger into a fact that the NGOs are prone to corruption and they have other vested interest than rendering service and empowering civil society.
The decision to put the Ford Foundation on a watch list and suspend the registration of Greenpeace India has fallen foul of the United States. The US has sought ‘clarification’ from the Government of India over the issue. The stringent actions taken by the Government might have thwarted the ‘interests’ of America. In any case, they cannot justify meddling in the domestic affairs of a democratic sovereign republic like India. It is the fundamental duty of the Government to safeguard the country from such threats by enacting the law. The Home Ministry said that it has decided to watch on all activities funded by the Ford Foundation and by exercising the powers conferred under Section 46 of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010. And Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was directed to ensure that funds coming from it be brought to the notice of MHA. It is not a big deal as media beat about the bush. It is the fundamental duty of the Government to ensure that the foreign fund is utilised for bonafide activities without compromising with the national interest and security.
The Government’s policy against the anti- national NGOs has been portrayed as an attempt to stifle voices which oppose Modi’s model of development. As we know, it was not Narendra Modi who took up the issue first; it was the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in February 2012, who brought the subject into public domain followed by a fierce attack against the NGOs. At that time, BJP has sought PM to clarify his allegation and make public all facts regarding the issue. Like the many other cases, UPA has not done much to walk the talk. They chose to wink at the giants like Greenpeace. However, according to the reports, the licences of three NGOs had been cancelled. Dr Manmohan Singh had accused American based NGOs of fuelling protest at Kudamkulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu. Dr Singh had also criticised the NGOs that receive support from abroad for stalling the use of Genetic engineering in agriculture. Of course, we have differences in such sensitive issues like Genetic Engineering and Atomic Energy but it should be debated by the stake holders of Indian democracy. And it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that there is no intervention from the foreign agents. The merits and demerits of the atomic energy, genetic energy, mining etc are not the subject matter of the current debate. Democratically, we the people can arrive at a solution on our own without sacrificing national interest and individual liberty.
The recent news reports have debunked a great many of their claims of NGOs and their beneficiaries. Reportedly, the government has now cancelled the licences of 8,975 NGOs for failing to file annual returns for the years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Why action has been taken against Ford Foundation?
The Ford Foundation, created by Edsel and Henry Ford in 1936, is one of the biggest Non Governmental Organisation in the world. In India since 1952, they have been involved in a great many of activities. Behind the scene, the track record of the Foundation is not good. It is generally believed that the Ford Foundation is being funded by the US Government. Reportedly, they appointed several CIA agents as their volunteers. The Gujrat Government has accused the US based NGO of directly interfering in the internal affairs of the country and also of abetting communal disharmony. The State Home Department has also accused the Ford Foundation of interfering with the judicial system and defaming the Indian military. It has been found that the Ford Foundation has been working as the main funding agency of doubtly unpopular Teesta Setalvad. Teesta Setalvad is one of the few persons who took personal yield of the riots and still subsist on that. Her service activities will keep the wounds of the Gujarat riots unhealed. She is well known for her pro-Islamic activism and the consistent effort to run down the Gujarat State Government.
“Our probe revealed that the money raised for 2002 riot victims was used to carry out a sustained campaign against the Gujarat Government in India and abroad. This amounts to interference in the State and also anti-national”, said Rajni Patel, Gujarat Minister of State for Home.
In the wake of recent developments, a Home Ministry spokesperson said, “It was found that Ford Foundation had been involved in funding non-FCRA registered entities which amounts to serious violations of the FCRA 2010 law.” Home Ministry made it clear that it does not prevent Ford Foundation from contributing money to FCRA registered associations.
How other countries deal with this problem
Countries like Russia and China consider this issue with utmost priority. Both countries have recently had new legislation to address the issue caused by the foreign funded NGOs. Having found the existing laws are insufficient to tackle the threat raised by NGOs, Vladmir Putin signed a new Treason Law in July 2012 that prohibits financial, technical, advisory, or other assistance in pursuit of damaging Russia’s constitutional order, sovereignty, and territorial and state integrity. In June 2014, Russia further amended the law to give the Ministry of Justice authority to group any NGO that accept foreign funds as foreign agent if it is found to be engaged in political activities.
To counter the challenges from foreign funded NGOs, China is planning to make a new law to put NGOs under scanner of state’s security apparatus. A kin to this, Chinese leaders alleged that the ultimate goal of Western Governments is to use their NGOs, to orchestrate the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party. If their allegation can be taken into account, most probably India's security is also under threat as India is rather vulnerable to such conspiracies than any of its neighbouring countries.
In a 2008 report, Canada’s Intelligence Agency, Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) raised a serious concern over the impact that “multi-issue extremists”, including Greenpeace, have on the nation’s “critical infrastructure” and that they may pose a threat to national security. Canadian government has taken issue with Greenpeace’s activities. Again, the Greenpeace invited the ire of the Canadian Government after having found its alleged interference in politics. For another instance, New Zealand revoked Greenpeace’s charity status in 2010 for having a political agenda, the country’s Supreme Court eventually determined, in August 2014, that it’s acceptable for a charity to also be politically engaged and restored Greenpeace’s charitable status. Even in the US, members of Congress have several times raised their concerns about the political agenda of NGOs.
Generally, NGOs adopt the working style of corporates due to their pro-capitalist perspective. It is also evident that the local participation is diminished in the protests conducted by the NGOs on various issues. They hijack the public protests and implement their vested interests at the expense of the civil society. In short, the American and European NGOs are nothing but an embodiment of corporate and capitalist interests, a by product of Capitalism. As we can observe, the arena is mostly centred in Asian and Latin American countries where Capitalism has not sunk its claws in deep. Explicitly, they have their own insidious ways to envisage their imperialist agenda. So promoting the NGOs as a panacea for all social problems is irrational and dangerous. It vitiates the spirit of democracy that we have been acquired over generations as they always tend to bypass the democratically elected bodies. Instead, we have to empower our existing public and private system and increase their efficiency.
The crux of the problem lies in the inefficiency of the public and private sector. The NGOs occupy the space left behind by the public and private sector which fail to deliver justice to the people. The Indian based social service organisations, working with a nationalist vision, should come forward to empower the society and fight for public cause. Since the intention of such organisations is under cloud, the Government must take measures to bridle them.
Ganesh Radhakrishnan (The writer is a freelancer based in Chengannur, Kerala)