The Gujarat government may have started an inquiry into foreign-funded NGOs, given Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s dislike for “five-star activists of NGOs serving their own interests”. The fact, however, is foreign donors are no longer interested in India. Also, Gujarat is not a priority for many of the top foreign donors, given that it comes a lowly eighth on the list of states receiving foreign donations.
At the same time, there has been a whopping increase in the number of organisations accepting foreign funds every year, effectively making the slice of the funds cake much smaller for each NGO.
“Internationally, philanthropic funds are starting to dry up, resulting in a drop in donations,” says Binoy Acharya, director of Unnati, an NGO working in development education. “Bilateral funding from organisations like USAID and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has dropped ever since the Vajpayee government said they would no longer need the funds. The Centre had allowed the organisations to directly fund NGOs but I don’t know of any major contributions so far. This had led to a drop in foreign funding.”
Figures of the of the Union home ministry show that in 2001-02, India had received Rs 4,872 crore under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 1976. In 2002-03 it received Rs 5,047 crore, an increase of only Rs 175 crore. This was the lowest in recent years in percentage terms as the increase has ranged between Rs 275 crore and Rs 600 crore between 1995 and 2001.
For the record, there is only one organisation from Gujarat that lists in the tops five recipients of foreign funds in the country – the Bochasanswami Akshar Purshottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS).
“Other parts of the globe like Africa and South America, which have severe problems of depravation, have come into the focus of foreign donors,” says Anurag Pratap, Gujarat project manager of Action Aid. “Besides, organisations like ours prefer to raise funds locally for our own projects. We only raise foreign funds for other NGOs and that too in their name.”
“Donor do not give money unless you are very specific exactly how you intend to use the money,” says Anand Kishore Das, program manager for western region for Oxfam BG. “If we want to work on poverty alleviation,we have to state whether it will be in agriculture or micro industry. If it is micro industry, we have to define the sector. All of this also helps us to do our work better.”
Interestingly, the NGOs are also expecting even more stringent norms for FCRA in the coming months, given that Prakash Karat has become general secretary of the CPM. As Acharya puts it, “It was Karat who had started a debate on whether NGOs should be allowed to accept foreign funds in 1986 and brought in issues of regulation. His intervention had led to stricter FCRA norms then.”
In his article, ‘Foreign funding and the philosophy of voluntary organisations in the CPM mouthpiece, The Marxist in 1988, Karat had said, “There is a sophisticated and comprehensive strategy worked out in imperialist quarters to harness the forces of voluntary agencies/action groups to their strategic design to penetrate Indian society and influence its course of development. By providing liberal funds to these groups, imperialism has created avenues to penetrate directly vital sections of Indian society and simultaneously use this movement as a vehicle to counter and disrupt the potential of the Left movement.”