Missionaries of Charity (MoC), founded by Mother Teresa, is again permitted to fundraise outside India after briefly having its authority to do so yanked by the Indian government. The license renewal is good through 2026.
Mother Teresa’s charity had been among a number of non-government organizations working in India blocked from receiving foreign funds. The charity is now able to receive and use funds from foreign contributors.
In a statement released by the charity to news outlet The Indian Express, Sunita Kumar, spokesperson of MoC, said, “We are happy and delighted that the central government realized and restored our FCRA registration. People who are donating know it is for the poor. They also raised their voices, asking why this had happened.”
Under India’s Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), non-governmental organizations must register with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and renew their license every five years.
Almost 6,000 FCRA licenses were canceled as of Jan. 1 after they failed to comply with revised guidelines or apply for renewal, according to The Economic Times. The government restored licenses of 79 organizations that filed renewal applications, according to The Times, bringing to nearly 17,000 the total number of active non-governmental organizations.
The MHA said last month that the Missionaries of Charity’s application was rejected on Dec. 25, citing “adverse inputs” while considering the renewal, according to the Associated Press.
Oxfam India was among the organizations whose registration renewal was denied. As per the list released by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 01 January 022, Oxfam India’s FCRA registration renewal request has been denied which means that Oxfam India will not be able to receive foreign funds for any of its work in India from 01 January 2022, Oxfam India said in a statement. The action will severely affect “ongoing crucial humanitarian and social work in 16 states across the country,” including providing medical and diagnostic equipment, such as oxygen cylinders and ventilators, and delivering food to the most vulnerable communities during the pandemic.
The decision to deny renewal of FCRA registration “will severely hamper these collaborations which were providing relief to those who needed it most during times of crisis,” Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, said in a statement.
“At a time when governments, civil society & NGOs need to confront global humanitarian & health issues jointly, it’s concerning to see the Government of India obstruct the work of groups like Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity & Oxfam. I’m asking Delhi for answers,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a Jan. 4 Tweet.
India has enacted a number of regulatory measures constricting funding for domestic nonprofits, most notably the FCRA, according to the International Center For Not-For-Profit Law (ICNL).
The FCRA was originally enacted in 1976 and significantly revised in 2010, creating registration requirements and spending restrictions on Indian charities receiving foreign donations. Amendments in 2020 brought additional restrictions, according to ICNL, including:
- Banning subgranting among FCRA-registered organizations;
- Lowering a cap on administrative spending covered by foreign funding from 50% to 20%; and,
- Further centralizing control of FCRA funding with the State Bank of Delhi and the MHA.
The FCRA represents a “securitized approach to foreign funding that is out of step with international standards,” according to the ICNL, obstructing humanitarian relief efforts in India during the COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters.
Of more than 20,000 organizations with active FCRA registrations at the time, about 3,000 had active State Bank of Delhi accounts at the start of the pandemic surge, ICNL said in a report on its assessment of FCRA. As of July 2021, about half of those registered had operational accounts. The lack of operational bank accounts has prevented charities from being able to accept readily available COVID relief donations. The inability to subgrant has prevented larger and intermediary Indian nonprofits from being able to distribute foreign funds and donations to smaller, grassroots organizations, particularly in rural areas.