Indian NGO Access to Foreign Funds
May 22, 2017
Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, more than 11,000 non-governmental organizations in the nation have been barred from accepting foreign funds. This crackdown curtails the flow of foreign aid to activities the Ministry of Home Affairs, which oversees the regulation of foreign charities, deems “detrimental to the national interest” of India. Few NGOs have been as vocal as Compassion International, a Colorado-based Christian charity, which was forced to close after 48 years on suspicion of religious conversion. Compassion International, India’s largest single foreign donor, donates $45 million annually and provides tens of thousands of impoverished children with meals, medical care, and tuition payments via local church-affiliated service centers. Numerous secular civil society organizations, particularly those involved in human rights and empowerment such as the Open Society Institute, have suffered restrictions and closures similar to Compassion International.
To what extent is this ban on accepting foreign funds indicative of shifting attitudes against proselytism or a wider crackdown on civil society? Do governmental efforts to regulate NGOs—both secular and faith-based—cross a moral, legal, or ethical line, or is there legitimacy to the Indian government’s concerns?