Thursday, July 09, 2015

Stop "uninformed visits" by IB cops to NGO offices: Top Indian civil society network to Ministry of Home Affairs

By Our Representative
The Voluntary Action Network of India (VANI), the country’s apex body of 500 NGOs, has asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to immediately stop “surprise visits by local intelligence bureau (IB) cops to NGO offices. In a letter to MHA, Harsh Jaitli, CEO,VANI, has said, the view is strong among them that they are “victim of local IB and police who often visit uninformed and most often do not share their purpose and identity proofs.”
Pointing out that this should be part of the “attempt to enhance transparency and accountability” in the NGO sector, VANI, which held consultations in mid-June on suggestions to proposed amendments to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules (FCRR), 2011, also insisted that going over to the online reporting system may be a desirable, as MHA wants, but the MHA must also move to create “enabling environment for the same.”
“The electronic system, as proposed by MHA, needs to be efficient and manageable”, the letter underlined, adding, however, while doing this, “concerns of small grassroots organizations to function electronically” should be addressed, because they “do not have online access and many a time face such difficulty due to poor internet connections.” In fact, it insisted, “Procuring digitally signature is beyond the capacity of smaller grassroots organizations.”
Pointing out that “only online provision will be extremely difficult for the smaller grassroots organizations who play a huge role in nation development”, the letter said, this is particularly difficult for organizations working in conflict areas such as Naxal prone areas, “where law and order is an issue due to display of real time financial data on their websites… The internal security of such organizations may come under threat due to cyber-crimes.”
The letter complained, “Many organizations in rural areas have experienced non-cooperation from banks to open foreign contribution (FC) account due to various obligations for banks.” In this context, it said, it was impossible to “submit details of fund receipt within 48 hours”, as required by MHA, adding the “earlier 30 days was quite reasonable”.
In fact, the letter said, “Due to extreme pressure on banks for speedy reporting, there will an increased fear among banks to open the FCRA accounts, and in many cases they might deny opening the accounts.”
The letter objected to “seeking details” of Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, saying this is “not acceptable.” It insisted, “All the participant organizations shared the common concern that seeking such details entails restricting the social space of individuals which amounts to curtailment of fundamental right of the citizens of this country.”
Then, the letter asked the MHA to “develop a database of organizations with all their documents and details in one place, rather than procuring the same information again and again after every five years during the renewal process.”
Wanting a proper grievance redressal mechanism for NGOs to be in place, the letter said, this is particularly important “looking at the volume of the NGO sector, their grievances and geographical spread.” It added, “Since there has been a long communication gap between the MHA and the sector, this (can be) a window for enhanced communication and speedy redressal of issues.”
Referring to the controversial MHA order placing “many major donor organisations under Prior Approval Category”, the letter said, “not all projects supported by these donors” are under scanner of the MHA. “Hence, to facilitate the smooth implementation of such socially useful projects, VANI would like to interact with the MHA to develop guidelines or system where it becomes less painful and well-coordinated with Banks”, it suggested.
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For section-wise proposals by VANI on amendments to FCRR, click HERE



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