New Delhi: Concerns have been raised that the new amendments made by the Central Government to the Foreign Contribution Control Act will have an impact on charitable activities led by churches and other social organizations. The Foreign Contribution Regulation (FCR) Amendment Bill 2020 is a new amendment that will seriously affect charitable activities. A new amendment would require companies registered under the Foreign Contribution Control Act not to transfer their foreign donation funds to another institution. Under the existing rules, funds can be transferred unrestrictedly to other registered institutions as per the FCR rules.
Registered institutions are also allowed to transfer a portion of their foreign contribution funds to unregistered institutions with the prior permission of the Central Government. Accordingly, Catholic dioceses and other major institutions make donations from abroad to small groups and churches in rural areas for volunteer work. For example, organizations such as Caritas India share donations from abroad during natural disasters to dioceses and charitable societies across the country for relief work. Under the new amendment, such funds will not be transferred. They will no longer be able to carry out relief and charitable activities that benefit the poor in rural areas.
There are many charitable organizations in the country like Caritas India, both directly and indirectly. When such charitable activities are stopped, the real loss is to the poor and those in need. The new amendments will spread the wings of large organizations that volunteer. Another amendment suggests that the account for accepting foreign donations should be opened only at the New Delhi branch of the State Bank of India.
Such accounts can now be opened at any public sector bank or scheduled bank branch across the country. The new amendment will make it impossible for voluntary organizations to operate in rural areas. Adding to the seriousness of the issue is the fact that not everyone can go to New Delhi and open an account. Another amendment states that registered firms may not spend more than 20 percent of foreign donations on administrative expenses. This also makes the functioning of the institutions impossible. Under the old rules, up to 50 per cent of foreign donations could be used for administrative expenses.
Voluntary organizations working on projects in different parts of the country have hired qualified people to run and oversee them. Their salaries, travel and office expenses are to be borne by the NGOs. The stipulation that only 20 per cent of the expenses should be borne by the administration will make it impossible to carry out charitable activities.
Therefore, the NGOs are demanding the repeal of the completely unfair proposed amendments to the Foreign Contribution Control Act. These organizations operate under strict regulations. Accurate auditing is done and the figures are submitted. The NGOs point out that it is paradoxical that the government, which invites foreign entrepreneurs to invest in various projects, only denies assistance to the poor.