Monday, April 23, 2018

Govt of India "generally responsive" to national, international NGOs: US State Dept report on human rights

By Our Representative
Even as critical of India's human rights record, including police and security force "abuses" like "extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, rape, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, and lengthy pretrial detention", unlike previously, in its new report the US Department of State is quite soft Government of India.
The US 2017 Human Rights Report for India notes, most domestic and international human rights groups in the country "generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases", and only in some circumstances "groups faced restrictions".
The report continues, "Government officials were generally responsive to NGO requests. There were more than three million NGOs in the country advocating for social justice, sustainable development, and human rights. The government generally met with domestic NGOs, responded to their inquiries, and took action in response to their reports or recommendations."
Pointing out that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) "worked cooperatively with numerous NGOs", the report notes, "Several NHRC committees had NGO representation", even as noting that "human rights monitors" even in the state of Jammu & Kashmir "were able to document human rights violations", though regretting, "Security forces, police, and other law enforcement authorities reportedly restrained or harassed them at times."
Even though the report says that "representatives of certain international human rights NGOs sometimes faced difficulties obtaining visas and reported that occasional official harassment and restrictions limited their public distribution of materials", the report does not go into any specifics, except for one case.
Even here, the report suggests, the government was not responsible. Thus, "On July 10, the Supreme Court rejected the relief plea of activists Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand, and their colleagues associated with Citizens for Justice and Peace from charges of corruption and misappropriation of ... 1.5 million rupees ($24,000) collected to build a memorial to victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots."
Even while referring to the rise cow vigilantism in just one paragraph in the 55-page report, it does not blame the government or the party in power in any way for "an increase in cow vigilante attacks". The report puts all the responsibility on those "typically associated with Hindu extremists" leading to the "attack" on 63 persons since 2010, 61 of whom were Muslims, "and 24 out of 28 of those killed in the attacks were Muslim".
Even as quoting UN special rapporteurs on human rights statement of mid-2016 which said that the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) “provisions were increasingly being use to silence organizations which may differ from those backed by the government”, the report says, the "authorities routinely granted permission" for obtaining FCRA, "although in some cases the approval process was lengthy."
At the same time, it says, "Some human rights groups claimed this practice provided the government with tacit control over the work of NGOs and constituted a restriction on freedoms of assembly and association", adding, there was also "suspension of foreign banking licenses for NGOs including Greenpeace India, Lawyers Collective, and the Sabrang Trust."
Also pointing towards restrictions "on the organization of international conferences", with the authorities requiring NGOs to "secure approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs before organizing international conferences", the report says, "The law provides for freedom of association. While the government generally respected that right, the government’s increased regulation of NGO activities that receive foreign funding has caused concern."
"In certain cases, for example, the government required 'prior approval' for some NGOs to receive foreign funds, and in other instances canceled or declined to renew FCRA registrations", the report says, adding, in some cases "the government took action to suspend foreign banking licenses or freeze accounts of NGOs that allegedly received foreign funding without the proper clearances or illegally combined foreign and domestic funding streams."
Giving the example of Compassion International, which closed its operstions after it was placed on the government’s prior approval list, the Lawyer’s Collective, which was unable to reregister after its FCRA registration was cancelled in 2016, and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), which filed a request with the government for reinstatement of its license, which is under review for a year, report says, "NGOs continued to express concern regarding the government’s enforcement of the FCRA."
Expressing concern over "bar some foreign-funded NGOs from engaging in activities the government believed were not in the national or public interest,” the report says, "Some NGOs expressed concern over politically motivated enforcement of the law to intimidate organizations that address social issues or criticize the government or its policies."
The report says, "Some multi-national and domestic companies also stated in some instances the law made it difficult to comply with government-mandated corporate social responsibility obligations due to lengthy and complicated registration processes. Experts also reported that it was increasingly difficult to secure FCRA registrations for new NGOs. Although the law imposes a limit of 90 days for application processing, FCRA applications were sometimes pending months longer."

1 comment:

Uma Sheth said...

Is the foreign exchange only an excuse for the govt to stop NGOs from exposing them?