- The world-renowned Missionaries of Charity (MoC) established under the soothing and able guidance of the Late Mother Teresa, Bharat Ratna, is in the news for reasons many would not like to believe. We all know monumental contributions made by the MoC around the world as well as in India especially concerning the poor, sick, and the destitute who were left to fend for themselves. Such yeomen services rendered by the Charity for several decades towards humanity with great care, compassion, empathy, and altruism cannot be questioned based on whimsical unsubstantiated excuses.
- For the uninitiated, the MoC received a painful shock during this Christmas Day as the Union Home Ministry refused its application for renewal of Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) registration. Not surprisingly, MoC’s shock is shared by many across the world who support the popular NGO either in kind or spirit. The instant foreign funding law is intended to check “activities detrimental to the national interest” and if one of India’s most venerable NGOs is indeed being accused of this, the evidence must have been provided before pressing ahead with the refusal of renewal of FCRA registration.
- On its part, the government has only made a sketchy reference to some adverse inputs as the reason for the refusal. Mind you, this comes close on the heels of Amnesty International exiting the country last year as a result of its finances getting choked, and other prominent civil liberty, human rights, and charitable groups facing similar straits. Last year the FCRA was further amended so that at a time when India needed the non-profit sector more than ever as the pandemic ravaged for both its funding and functioning were placed under fresh restraints. Of course, from food to education, oxygen to plasma, ambulance to cremation/burial, their services remain invaluable in a country where the state is not always there for everyone.
- It is worth mentioning how those NGOs functioned with absolute dedication during the past two Covid waves. Note that the MoC has had plenty of critics over the years, even as its work among the sick and poor also won its vast share of admirers. A key suspicion it confronts today can be seen in the FIR filed against one of MoC’s children’s homes in Vadodara earlier this month following allegations of religious conversions. Yes, this will be independently debated and litigated. Nonetheless, no matter how politically volatile such accusations have become, they cannot act as a barometer for funding of important human services, certainly not for axing a global supply chain serving the most needs people.
- Undoubtedly, by its very nature, the work of civil society organisations highlights shortfalls of the state forcing the authorities to improve upon the governance delivering people all their rightful dues on expected lines. In a democracy, it is not always about what governments like to hear but what they need to hear. Agreed, any misuse of funding should not get a free pass under the garb of past services, howsoever big it may be. The nature of such misuse must be completely clear as adverse inputs or FIRs on allegations of conversion do not really constitute activities detrimental to the national interest. As such, the renewal of FCRA should be reconsidered.