New Delhi,Manan Kumar(dna): In a move that could well spark off a diplomatic row, India on Thursday put Ford Foundation, one of the leading international funding agency headquartered in New York, under its watch list.
Invoking section 46 of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, the Foreigners' division of the union home ministry asked the Reserve Bank of India to "instruct all banks to ensure that any fund flow from Ford Foundation to any person, NGO, organisation may be brought to the notice of the ministry and that the funds are allowed to be credited into the accounts of the recipient only after the ministry's clearance."
The circular also said any instance of a government organisation receiving funds directly from this agency should be brought to the notice of the home ministry and would be subject to clearance.
Though the circular does not specify or indicate any reason for this step, it apparently lies in Ford Foundation providing a grant of $5,40,000 to Teesta Setlvad-run NGO Sabrang Trust and Sabrang Communication & Publishing Pvt Ltd (SCPPL).
Teesta Setalvad is known for having very strong views on Narendra Modi. She also took Gujarat government head-on on behalf of victims of 2002 Gujarat riots.
Raising the issue with union home secretary L C Goyal in March this year, Gujarat government had said that "it is revealed during the course of investigation that Ford Foundation, established with the stated goal of promoting communal harmony, democratic principles and social justice, has been indulging in covert activities of promoting interests that are completely contradictory to the said goals."
The communication also attached a detailed report of investigations carried out by the state police which questions Ford Foundation motives while giving grant to Teesta's organisation, SCPPL.
"It appears that Sabrang Trust and SCPPL are proxy offices of Ford Foundation that are being cultivated and positioned by the latter with some long-term plan," the report said.
Stating that "Foundation has deviated from its position that it will not promote or engage in bigotry and allowed the fund recipient to make a derogatory claim on the state of Gujarat, including a summary declaration that there is a failure to enforce the rule of law" Gujarat government favoured strong action against Ford Foundation for not only violating FEMA but also directly interfering in the internal affairs of the country and also abetting communal disharmony.
The move has sent ripples in the NGO circuit, as Ford Foundation, having assets worth over $11 billion, has made more than 3,500 grants totaling $508 million to nearly 1,250 institutions from its New Delhi office alone which began in 1952 on the invitation of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
In India, it provides aid in diverse fields, including agriculture, micro-finance, municipal planning, dalit, women's and human rights, indigenous philanthropy, peace and regional security, classical and contemporary arts, democratic decentralisation and the panchayats, educational and scholarly institutions such as the IIMs, natural resource management, particularly joint forest management.
"The Ford Foundation is a major international organisation and has prominent Indians also on its governing board. This action throttles not just Ford Foundation but also chokes NGOs and activists it was encouraging through various projects in India," said John Dayal, a prominent civil society activist.
"Such actions by the government considerably erode its international reputation as a modern democracy, as also the reputation of the government and ruling party, the BJP. This in turn has an impact on India's business reputation,specially as an investment destination," said Dayal.
Ford Foundation could not be contacted for comments despite several attempts.