Surveillance & Clampdown: 'NGOs to be linked to central data hub with unique ID'

The MHA has directed the DGPs and IGPs of states and union territories to assign teams that are working in coordination with the central government wing to expedite the process of unique ID allocation
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

NEW DELHI: That the BJP government at the Centre is sceptical towards NGOs is notable. Against this backdrop comes the Centre's move to bring in all NGOs under a central data hub with a unique identification number on the lines of Aadhar for better surveillance of the flow of funds and making the accounting process by these entities more transparent.

The step is a major move to revamp the NGO ecosystem in India - amidst intel and alleged evidence of diversion of funds to sponsor terror and "anti-India activities." 

According to sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) “though most NGOs including trust and societies come under the purview of the federal laws, their governance is decentralised and is under different state administrations, due to which a centralised monitoring set-up is still lacking that makes monitoring difficult.”

The MHA has directed the DGPs and IGPs of states and union territories to assign teams that are working in coordination with the central government wing to expedite the process of unique ID allocation.  “The model is also being designed and developed with an objective to evolve an effective centralised mechanism to detect and investigate instances of laundering and illegal funding activities by some NGOs,” a senior official said.  

In India, while the NGOs registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) are monitored by the MHA through a dedicated division, there are nearly 35 lakh NGOs which are not registered under the FCRA and are governed by nearly 40 different laws like the Society registration Act, The Companies Act, Public Trust Act and others, and are usually governed by the laws of the states. 

“There have been instances, however, where both categories of NGOs have been indulging in violations like diversion of funds and money laundering,” ministry sources claimed.

As a result, the regulatory mechanism for all FCRA and non-FCRA are also being relooked into at the moment, while the process to link them centrally is being worked out. 

“This is primarily because some of the NGOs have found ways to bypass FCRA regulations and have been indulging in malpractices,” sources in the ministry said.

The move is now being expedited, in the wake of several dubious activities by NGOs coming to the knowledge of the government, especially during the time of Covid-19. 

“From being involved in unauthorized biotech R&Ds to diverting crowdfunding money raised for Covid-19 relief to fund disruptions and terror, authorities picked up evidence of funds being diverted by entities to stall operations at strategic locations like power plants and key government-owned installations,” sources said.

While the implementation of the ID allocations is under process the state policing authorities have been directed, as a part of capacity building, to monitor foreign funding through FCRA registered NGOs as well as other illegal channels like hawala or darknet and convey violations if any, to the MHA.

Also, the centre has directed the state police to identify the 100 most sensitive NGOs of their state in coordination with the intelligence wings and undertake “field enquiries” to verify their activities.

“In most cases, we do not know the end mile fund utilization pattern of the money and under expense heads like sundry expenses and R&D, there is scope for funds being diverted,” an MHA official said adding, “Also in societies and trust where it’s easy to take cash deposits, there are instances of laundering."    

The government has taken the matter up on priority following specific instances of crowdfunding money received by NGOs for the purpose of Covid relief getting diverted for other purposes. Even the foreign funds which came into the accounts of many NGOs were traced back to "outfits linked to Al Qaeda and LeT." The trend of a similar funding pattern also came to the fore with an organization related to farm protests that was funded by radical pro-Khalistan organisations. “This also points to the operational collaboration of foreign-based anti-India forces by several terror outfits,” an MHA official said.

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