International donors who supply funds to Indian NGOs in the name of child sponsorship and poverty alleviation can no longer hoodwink the Indian Government.
Compassion International, a US-based donor NGO, is shutting down its India operations after it was put under ‘prior permission category’ in May last year. When a donor organisation is put under this category, it is barred from funding any Indian NGO without the Government’s authorization.
They have been accused of engaging in religious conversion.
Compassion International is a Christian humanitarian aid child sponsorship entity devoted to the long-term growth of children living in poverty around the world. And it has a tacit support of the US Government.
The news of Compassion’s closure is a concern to the US State Department and the acting spokesman, Mark Toner, has responded quite tactfully. While maintaining that India and the US have a strong relationship and they can always talk on these matters cordially, he didn’t fail to convey the real message: “NGOs do valuable work overseas. Certainly, these countries and governments have their own reasons for the laws they pass, but we believe it should be transparent and clear why they’re shutting down these organisations.”
It’s a fair expectation. It calls for transparency. And once the inquiry into the reported allegations of conducting religious conversion is complete, the Government would be duty-bound to make it public.
But the press conference revealed a deeper meaning. Toner alluded to the fact that this has not happened for the first time in India, and that other foreign-funded organisations have faced similar problems in the past.
This means the United States recognises this as a growing pattern, making India an anti-charity country in their view. They have already initiated communication through diplomatic channels.
It is not in India’s favour to be seen as a country which provides very little space for NGOs to operate. We cannot be viewed as bullies who run organisations away from our lands. But we can also not look the other way when there is wrong happening when the country’s identity and values are threatened by motivated missionary agents of the West.
Evidence pointed to the strong possibility of religious conversion and the Government might not have had an option, but to take action against Compassion International for promoting it. The charges against the donor NGO are being investigated and verified.
The final report will either absolve or indict the NGO, but these revelations and allegations are a worrying factor. They reveal hidden agendas that threaten India’s fabric.
Greenpeace India met with a similar fate. The government had suspended its license to receive foreign donations, citing reasons such as talks with the Aam Aadmi Party, attempts to delay and place illegal obstructions to India’s energy plans, campaigning, protesting and lobbying against government of India’s policies and much more.
These are grave charges, a situation in which any Government would take suitable measures to safeguard national interest.
India should be extra careful in making charges of anti-national activities against some NGOs. It needs to have enough irrefutable evidence before it comes out with a ban order, because there is always a possibility of the charges being proved wrong.
The Government will have to monitor their activities more closely than ever. It does not mean surveillance and tapping, but a strict policy that governs funding transparently. It should watch the areas in which the funds are being used. It should conduct thorough audit periodically and inspect areas where the NGO is operating to assess ground reality.
This is not an agenda against NGOs. The Government has become vigilant and pro-active at every front. Taxmen are scrutinizing suspects of black money hoarders, there is zero tolerance towards corruption, and high-profile politicians can no longer strong-arm the justice system. NGOs just happen to be a part of the whole.
Not all that Compassion International indulged in, though, is bad. They have done some fine work towards ensuring children go to school and end up in employment. But the charges of wrong doing were too critical to ignore. Perhaps, one can only hope, in good faith, that the Indian Government is mistaken and Compassionate can continue to provide aid transparently and without any hidden interests.
It has repeatedly ranked as India’s largest single foreign donor, transferring around $45 million a year. But if proven guilty, the US State Department will have a lot of explaining to do with a lot of discomfort.