Vijaita Singh

Of the six NGOs whose license under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) was suspended by the Union Home Ministry this year, four are Christian associations. An FCRA licence is mandatory for a non-profit organisation to receive foreign funds.

At least two U.S.-based Christian donors are also under the Ministry’s scanner for funding NGOs and groups here, a senior government official said.

Impact of donations

“Concerns have been raised regarding the impact of U.S.-based evangelical donors including Seventh Day Adventist Church and Baptist Church in regard to Indian associations; a probe is on,” the official said.

The four Christian groups whose FCRA was suspended are Ecreosoculis North Western Gossner Evangelical in Jharkhand, the Evangelical Churches Association (ECA) in Manipur, Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jharkhand and New Life Fellowship Association (NLFA) in Mumbai. The reasons for the suspension or violation were not specified.

The Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), had obstructed prayer meetings organised by the NLFA in Mumbai in April and September last year. The Hindu religious group alleged that the meeting was a pretext for religious conversion and later submitted a complaint to the police.

The FCRA license of NLFA was suspended on February 10, according to Home Ministry data. According to the NLFA’s website, the group began operations in India in the mid-sixties after the arrival of missionaries from the New Life Churches of New Zealand in 1964.

An email query from The Hindu seeking the NLFA’s response to the suspension of the FCRA license elicited no reply.

The Evangelical Churches Association (ECA) was founded in 1952 in Manipur. Its origins can be traced to a Welsh Presbyterian missionary who visited in 1910.

According to the website of Ecreosoculis North-Western Gossner Evangelical, its origin is rooted in the development of the Gossner mission of Germany in Chhotanagpur region.

The Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church was established in 1987 and is part of a global communion of 148 churches in the Lutheran tradition, representing over 77 million Christians in 99 countries, its website says.

None of the associations responded to requests by The Hindu for a comment on the government’s decision.

Any organisation, association or NGO in India cannot receive foreign funds if they do not have a license under the FCRA, which is regulated by the Home Ministry. Suspension of FCRA license means that the NGO can no longer receive fresh foreign funds from donors pending a probe by the ministry.

Leprosy unit hit

The two other organisations whose license was suspended are the Rajnandgaon Leprosy Hospital and Clinics, and the Don Bosco Tribal Development Society.

Earlier in 2017, another powerful U.S.- based Christian donor, Compassion International, was forced to stop operations in India after the ministry found that it funded NGOs that encouraged religious conversions. Former Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi had in an interview to The Hindu on August 30, 2017 said, “Compassion was not in compliance with FCRA [guidelines].”

The same year, the Home ministry declined to renew the FCRA licenses of two NGOs, which received funds from Bloomberg Philanthropies, founded by U.S. billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Earlier in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the former New York mayor had announced a joint initiative to build Smart cities in India that would be aided by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

As of now, there are 22,457 NGOs or associations registered under the FCRA, while the licenses of 20,674 were cancelled and 6,702 are deemed to have expired.

This story first appeared on September 6, 2020 in ‘The Hindu’ here