The non-renewal of the Missionaries of Charity’s registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, after the government noticed “some adverse inputs” has understandably outraged many people not only in India but also abroad. The NGO, started by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, works among abandoned children, lepers, AIDS patients and a host of other underprivileged sections of the society. Its nuns and employees are widely recognised as one of the most selfless people and they are feted worldwide.
Given this reputation, the government’s rather cryptic statement that there were “some adverse inputs” against the charitable organisation has been generally met with disbelief. Most are of the view that the action falls in line with the squeeze the government has been putting on NGOs in the past few years, especially their funding from abroad.
A recent report prepared by a foreign consultancy firm said that from 2014 to 2018, NGOs numbering upto 13,000 had to stop operations because their licences were cancelled by the government. The most prominent organisation that was forced to wind up was human rights watchdog Amnesty International. It shut its office last year allegedly because of government reprisals. Besides stopping the foreign funding of many NGOs, the government also amended the FCRA last year to put impediments in their functioning. Among the amendments enacted was the compulsory opening of a bank account in Delhi. This crippled the functioning of many organisations, especially at a time when many of them were engaged in Covid-19 relief and humanitarian work.
Of late, the Missionaries of Charity has made news for the wrong reasons. In Jharkhand, the police arrested an employee and a nun allegedly for child trafficking from a home run by the organisation. Earlier this month, a case was registered against the organisation in Vadodara, Gujarat, for allegedly indulging in religious conversion. Whether these constitute the “adverse inputs” cited by the Ministry of Home Affairs is difficult to say but even if these charges are well founded, the decades of charitable work by the Missionaries of Charity could have been taken into account and a less-controversial way could have been adopted to resolve the issue. The non-renewal of the organisation’s FCRA registration lacked finesse, dignity and respect.