The Ministry of Home Affairs has clarified that while it refused the Missionaries of Charity's (MoC) request to renew their registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Rules (FCRR), it did not freeze its bank account. The clarification also said that it was the MoC themselves who asked the State Bank of India to freeze their account.
In a statement, the MoC also clarified that the MHA did not freeze their account, and they are not operating foreign contribution accounts till the matter is resolved.
The denial from the MHA came on December 25 this year. The statement also says that the MoC's FCRA registration was valid up to October 31 this year, which was extended to December 31.
"However, while considering the MoC's renewal application, some adverse inputs were noticed. In consideration of these inputs on record, the renewal application of MoC was not approved", the statement says. No request has been received from the MoC to review this refusal, according to the government.
This statement came after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted that she was shocked to hear that the union ministry had frozen all bank accounts of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in India.
This was followed by a statement from Fr. Dominic Gomes, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Calcutta condemning the government action against the humanitarian organisation. "In freezing the bank accounts of Missionaries of Charity Sisters and Brothers congregations, government agencies have given a cruel Christmas gift to the poorest of the poor," read the statement further stating that the move will impact over 22,000 direct dependants and beneficiaries at their centres across the country.
The MoC is a religious organisation association established in 1950 by Mother Teresa, a Catholic missionary. The organisation was in the news when it was at the receiving end of allegations earlier this month that young girls were forced to wear a cross and read the Bible; something it denies.
Amendments to the FCRA - which regulates the foreign donations received by organisations and individuals - have emerged as a point of contention between the government and non-government organisations. Changes made last year include:
- A prohibition on transfer of foreign funds obtained from abroad to any other association or individual
- The designation of only select branches of the SBI in New Delhi to receive the funds from abroad (after which the funds can be transferred to any bank account)
- Taking the Aadhaar number of individuals applying for FCRA or for approval for receiving funds
- Receipts allowed as administrative expenditure has been brought down from 50% to 20%
While NGOs states that the rules are arbitrary, impose heavy restrictions and inhibit their operations, the government says that the rules are imperative for ensuring that foreign donations to such organisations do not interfere with the internal matters of India, and that such foreign funds are not diverted. Secondly, the government has also said that a singular bank account in New Delhi makes it simpler to monitor the flow of funds.
An issue over these foreign funding laws was also cited as one of the reasons Amnesty International withdrew from India last year.
Read the MHA's clarification here.
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