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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

LS passes Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Monday passed a bill to amend the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act to make furnishing of Aadhaar numbers of office-bearers of any NGO mandatory for registration and also effect other changes, with the government asserting that the proposed legislation is not against any religion.

Amid concerns raised by various Opposition members about The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai asserted that the bill is not against any religion or NGO.

The proposed legislation will also not stop foreign contributions in any way, he noted.

The bill, which also seeks to bar public servants from receiving funds from abroad, was passed after a discussion in the Lower House even as many Opposition parties raised objections to the bill.

Replying to the discussion on the bill, the minister stressed that it was necessary for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).

Among other provisions, the bill proposes to enable the centre to allow an NGO or association to surrender its FCRA certificate.

According to the minister, there was misuse of funds by way of transferring the money to other entities and the bill seeks to curb such things. “We will stop misuse of funds,” Rai stressed.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said there is a political agenda in bringing the bill and claimed that things are being done to protect PM-CARES Fund.

Shiv Sena’s Shrirang Appa Barne supported the bill and said that there was a need to come out with a strict law to stop religious conversions.

During the discussion, BJP’s Satya Pal Singh said there were many organisations receiving foreign contributions but were not spending the funds for the work it was given but for some other activity.

He also said that money received as foreign contribution cannot be spent on terrorist activities.

TMC’s Sougata Roy said the bill was to tighten all the organisations getting funds from abroad. When the Supreme Court has said that Aadhaar was not compulsory, then “why should you (government) make Aadhaar compulsory,” he asked.

Opposing various provisions of the bill, NCP’s Supriya Sule wanted to know why the government was doing “micromanagement” as she referred to the proposal that only up to 20 per cent of the foreign funds received could be spent on administrative expenses. Presently, the limit is 50 per cent.

“… tomorrow, you will say salaries of CEOs will be controlled,” she remarked.

She said that NGOs should not be undermined and requested the government to “stop bulldozing people doing good work”. Sule also said that it is almost like an emergency without calling an emergency.

Regarding the provision to bring 20 per cent limit, the minister said there have been instances where money was collected for public welfare but was used for family things.

About the Aadhaar requirement in the bill, Rai said Aadhaar is an important document for identification and wondered what if there is a situation where a director tries to hide the identity.

Taking strong objection to certain remarks by Satya Pal Singh, Sule said there are thousands of NGOs that are doing good work and that Singh defended a case that had happened in Odisha where a family was burnt alive.

“Please do not think that the world is full of chors (thieves) and bad people…,” she remarked.

Responding to criticism by Sule, Singh said that he did not condemn all NGOs. With regard to the Odisha incident, he clarified that he was only talking about the motivating factor.

TMC member Mahua Moitra said the government was going after NGOs doing work and that she does not understand the dichotomy.

Syed Imtiaz Jaleel (AIMIM) said that somehow he feels the bill will create hurdles in smooth running of Christian convent schools.

“We feel that there is a hidden motive behind the bill to target certain individuals, organisations and definitely certain castes and communities. I request the government to withdraw this bill,” he said.

Gaurav Gogoi (Congress) said that the bill should be sent to a Parliamentary standing committee.

Another Congress member Vincent Pala alleged that the bill is a multi-pronged attack on civil society and minorities as he urged the government to withdraw the bill.

He also said the bill was against Christians and minorities and that the government is only for sections of the people.

Anto Antony (Congress) said through this bill an attempt is being made to suffocate NGOs.

Stating that NGOs’ also help in the country’s economy, he said that action should definitely be taken if there are any anti-national activities. But in some cases, it has been seen that due to technical reasons licences get cancelled “which is an attack on the minority”, he added.

TRS member Bheemrao Baswanthrao Patil opposed the bill and said the proposed legislation will have a devastating impact on community work done by NGOs.

IUML member E T Mohammed Basheer also opposed the bill. Kaushalendra Kumar (JD-U) and Bellana Chandra Sekhar (YSR Cong) supported the bill. (PTI)

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