NEW DELHI:On April 23, 2015, the Narendra Modi-led NDA government took an unprecedented step by putting the Ford Foundation under the watch list of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
On April 15, the Gujarat government wrote to the MHA that financial records of activist Teesta Setalvad show that the Ford Foundation had been “sponsoring anti-national activities and should be scrutinised”.
In 2006, the foundation approved a grant of $200,000 to Setalvad’s Sabrang Communications to “address communalism and caste-based discrimination in India through active research, web-based information dissemination, development of civil society network and media strategies”. At that time, the US visa ban on Modi was still in effect. Express investigation into the foundations’ activities in India that goes back to the 1950s throw up some startling facts.
- The Ford and Rockefeller foundations had penetrated the Indian establishment without any government oversight.
- It gave junkets and scholarships to senior government officials in the Nehru administration without clearance from the Indian government.
- These officials were directly selected by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations without the knowledge of the government.
- B K Nehru, Indira Gandhi’s cousin and the Commissioner General for Economic Affairs of Indian Embassy in Washington, advised against insistence on clearance of the funds by the Rockefeller Foundation to government employees after a meeting with its President Dean Rusk.
- Rusk told the government that only consultations (and not approval) with the Department of Economic Affairs would be necessary before it funded bureaucrats and others.
- Appalled at the storm brewing in his Govt against the foundations’ blatant efforts to woo government officials, Nehru denied he had given the necessarily approval. He had to backtrack after a note was shown to him, which made it obvious that the opposite was true.
As expected, the Modi government’s move against the Ford Foundation to bring its donations under the RBI’s and the MHA’s domain created ripples in the US establishment with the Obama administration seeking a clarification on the government’s decision to keep a hawk’s eye on all the bodies and activities funded by the Ford Foundation. Alarmed at its activities to influence government policy and public opinion, all its activities were put under watch.
Hectic negotiations are on between the Ford Foundation and the government, as the former believes that its absolute free run in promoting the US agenda and policy in the Indian establishment through grants to think-tanks, NGOs and junkets to various seminars to the US for the last 63 years may soon be over. How could the foundation operate so freely despite allegations of its CIA links? Express investigation which covers the period from 1952 to 2014 on foreign donors—especially the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation—raises serious questions over the Jawaharlal Nehru government’s decision to let foreign agencies establish deep roots in the country without government oversight.
The most shocking fact that emerges in Express investigation is that officers in Nehru’s government were directly selected by officials of both Ford and Rockefeller foundations to participate in research projects abroad. Their travel and boarding and lodging expenses were taken care of by the sponsors. Some officials in Nehru’s regime who protested the penetration of foreign donors, including the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation into the highest echelons of the Indian government, suggested strong measures to rein in these agencies but were not allowed due to some mysterious “political implications”, according to a note to the Finance Ministry from S Dutt, the Foreign Secretary at that time.
Much before the Narendra Modi government, D P Karmarkar—the Health Minister in Nehru’s Cabinet—blew the whistle on the spreading influence of foreign funding agencies in India during the 1950s. He asked the Ministry of External Affairs about what the procedures adopted by the government to allow foreign donors to operate in India were? Karmarkar was concerned that the Rockefeller Foundation directly lured officials from his ministry with hefty stipends and free junkets. Dutt noted in his file on June 23, 1958, that when the health minister tried to suggest that the government intervene in the matter of unbridled foreign funding, the terse reply from funding agencies was “take it or leave it”.