September 21, 2020
Saugata Roy speaks on The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020
Sir, I am speaking on The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020. I am opposing this Bill and also supporting my amendments to the Bill as have been put. As I mentioned during my opposition to the introduction of the Bill yesterday, it is as if, as George Orwell said in his novel, 1984, Big Brother is watching. This is another example of the Big Brother, who sits in the Home Ministry, watching over the whole country on who gets how much money from where. So this Bill is essentially meant to tighten the screws on those organisations which receive funds from abroad.
We know that in 2016, the Home Ministry had cancelled the license of Lawyers Collective, run by noted lawyers Indira Jaisingh and Anand Grover, for various violations. The Ministry said that Mrs Jaisingh received foreign funds when she held the post of additional solicitor general, in violation of FCRA norms. Mrs Jaisingh refuted the Ministry’s allegation and said she was a public servant and not a government servant. The Bill has now changed ‘government servant’ into ‘public servant’ so that people like Indira Jaisingh, who are known for their fight for people’s freedom and women’s issues, are prohibited.
As I said, the Ministry is trying to put the screws on organisations. The Bill says that if any organisation receives foreign contributions, it cannot transfer that contribution to any other organisation. This will be a major blow to NGOs working collaboratively on projects and programmes. This may also put foreign funding agencies or foreign grant-making organisations registered under FCRA in difficulty.
Secondly, this Bill says that the people receiving foreign funds must produce their Aadhar cards. The Supreme Court has said that the Aadhaar Card is not compulsory. It is a document only for identification of those receiving money under targeted public distribution. Why should you make the Aadhaar Card compulsory? It is only to keep a better control over these people.
Earlier, the rule was that the money which came from abroad could be kept in any scheduled commercial bank or nationalised bank. Now the Bill says that all the money must come into an account of the State Bank of India in Delhi, which you can open from anywhere in the country, and from that account, the money can be transferred to any other account anywhere that the organisation opens. This is another way of controlling foreign contributions coming in, by having the account in only one specified account in one specified bank.
Earlier, it was the rule that the FCRA registration could be suspended ‘for such period
not exceeding one hundred and eighty days as may be specified’. Now this Bill is saying that the FCRA registration could be suspended for ‘for a period of one hundred and eighty days, or such further period, not exceeding one hundred and eighty days, as may be specified’, which means a registration could be suspended for 360 days.
Sir, the Bill now proposes that the MHA may permit any organisation to surrender the certificate granted under this Act if the MHA is satisfied that the organisation has not contravened any provision of the FCRA and any asset created out of foreign contribution has been vested in the competent authority.
This is another way of controlling all the funds that an NGO receives. May I remind you, Sir, that Mother Teresa, who received the Nobel Peace Prize, had done most of her work through the Missionaries of Charity for the destitute, the poor and lepers. Most of her money came from across the world. Now if Mother Teresa was alive today—her Missionaries of Charity is still there—this government would have put the screws on her organisation.
There is no need for this Bill at all. This Bill will only satisfy people like the Honourable Member who spoke about the Theory of Evolution. These are the people who are suspicious because they are constantly into high-handed Hindu revivalism, which is their credo … <intervention by Chair>