NEW DELHI: Human Rights watchdog Amnesty International is being “forced” to close down its India chapter because the government won’t let it get funds from its London headquarters.
Amnesty International says the Home Ministry has rejected its application for seeking overseas funds twice since 2006 — and its Delhi office is now running out of cash. Under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, organisations need government permission before they look abroad for money.
“We are being forced to suspend operations,” Amnesty International’s Judit Arenas told The New Indian Express over the phone from London.
And in a letter to Indian members and supporters from Amnesty International India (AII) director Mukul Sharma too blamed the FCRA problem for the drastic step. “We are extremely sorry to inform you that the AII Office is closing down... All the colleagues, working in the AII office will be relieved by March 31, 2009 ...“This is because Government of India continues to deny the FCRA registration to AI India Foundation and our local resources are very insufficient for our survival,” he wrote.
Contacted for comment, the Home Ministry said it had approved “at least on two occasions” Amnesty’s application under the “prior permission” category — which seeks money from a specific source, for specific activities. The organisation can apply again under the same category and its application would be considered, a home ministry spokesman said.
He didn’t specify the “two occasions”, but the reference apparently was to the permission Amnesty says it got in 2000 when the NDA government allowed it to open the Delhi office, and then again in 2003.
However, during the UPA government’s term, there has been no approval. Amnesty says it applied for “registration” under FCRA in 2006. The Ministry responded to that in 2007, turning it down. Amnesty applied again in 2008, this time under the temporary “prior permission” category.That too was rejected.
Arenas said Amnesty would try to resume India operations “as quickly as possible”, but there is no knowing yet when that would happen.
In any case as it did before it opened office in Delhi Amnesty would continue to report on the human rights situation in India, relying on reports from media and researchers based in India and its London office.