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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday expressed concern over the restrictions on foreign funding for the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in India and the arrest of activists in the country.
She appealed to the Indian Government to “safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs, and their ability to carry out their crucial work on behalf of the many groups they represent.”
“India has long had a strong civil society, which has been at the forefront of groundbreaking human rights advocacy within the country and globally, but I am concerned that vaguely defined laws are increasingly being used to stifle these voices.” she said in a statement.
Bachelet specifically cited as “worrying” the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which prohibits the receipt of foreign funds “for any activities prejudicial to the public interest.”
She said the Act, which was adopted in 2010 and was amended last month, has been invoked over the years to “justify an array of highly intrusive measures, ranging from official raids on NGO offices and freezing of bank accounts, to suspension or cancellation of registration, including of civil society organisations that have engaged with UN human rights bodies.
As per the amended FCRA law, furnishing of Aadhaar numbers by office-bearers of NGOs has become mandatory for registration. The Act also provides for a reduction in administrative expenses of any NGO receiving foreign funding, from 50 per cent to 20 per cent of annual funds to ensure spending on their primary objectives.
Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai had said in Parliament that the legislation was not against any NGO and was an effort to maintain transparency. (PTI)