In a crackdown on NGOs receiving foreign funds, the government has cancelled licences of nearly 9,000 such entities for violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)
New Delhi : The US on Wednesday expressed concern over punitive action taken by the NDA government against scores of NGOs, asserting that a vibrant civil society was important for democratic traditions and that those who act peacefully to seek change are not anti-government.
US Ambassador Richard Verma said citizens have a “inalienable right” in a democratic society to argue peacefully and asking questions to government or challenging laws does not mean that they were trying to weaken national security.
“I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by the NGOs operating in India. Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs,” Verma said.
He was delivering a lecture on “Foundation of the US-India Strategic-Plus Relationship” at Ananta Aspean Institute, a think-tank.
In a crackdown on NGOs receiving foreign funds, the government last month had cancelled licences of nearly 9,000 such entities for violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
The US-based Ford Foundation has also been put in the ‘watch list’ by the Home Ministry which directed that funds coming from the international donor should not be released by any bank to any Indian NGO without mandatory permission from it. The Government had also barred Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds with immediate effect. Noting that democracy was much more than elections, he said, “Free societies must engage in a constant and deliberate debate on topics of public concern. We cannot avoid the hard questions in the name of political expediency. We cannot avoid discussions simply because we might not like the answers.” Talking about India’s “vibrant community” of over 2 million NGOs, the Ambassador said with so many voices engaged in various debates, there are sure to be some whose views others find objectionable.
“Whether it is by changing laws or policies, challenging them in court, or by strengthening their enforcement, those that act peacefully to seek change are not anti-government. They are for better government. By seeking to improve government, they strengthen national security, not weaken it,” Verma said.