American aid to the Institute for Policy Research Studies (IPRS), a New Delhi-based NGO, for facilitating research assistance to Indian MPs is creating a rift in stakeholder Union ministries. The Ministry of Home Affairs has refused to grant prior permission to the IPRS, a unit of PRS Legislative Research, to accept foreign funding. However, it is mystified by the deafening silence of other concerned ministries—the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources Development, and the Law Ministry—on the affair.
Funded by The Ford Foundation, 46 MPs from 19 parties have been given research analysts—legislative assistants to MPs (LAMP)—for a year under the scheme. After cracking down on foreign funding for research assistance in September, the home ministry had sought comments from the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources Development, and Law Ministry. “The very fact that a foreign-funded organisation would have access to MPs and MLAs may prompt foreign agencies to infiltrate the organisation which will be detrimental to national security,” ministry sources said.
The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs refuses to comment on the issue, despite the fact that MPs have been taking research help from the American NGO. So does the Law Ministry, the oldest limb of the government, whose primary job is to give advice on legal issues and also draft principal legislations for Central government. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Human Resources Development has even given a ‘no objection’ certificate to receiving foreign aid on the basis of a report from The Centre for Policy Research, allegedly an interested party.
Ministries divided by MHA rules
The Ministry of Home Affairs has refused to grant prior permission to the IPRS, a unit of PRS Legislative Research, to accept foreign funding. However, it is mystified by the deafening silence of other concerned ministries— the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Human Resources Development, and the Law Ministry—on the affair.
It is a well-known fact that PRS started as a wing of CPR in 2005 and operates out of the same office in on Dharma Marg in Chanakya Puri, New Delhi. Sources in the Home Ministry say that IPRS intends to intensify its engagement with legislators across the country and has applied for prior permission to receive $5, 55,000 as a donation from the Ford Foundation and $ 1 million from the Omidiyar Network, an NGO started by the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and wife Pam.
While the responses of the other concerned ministries is seen as an endorsement of foreign funding, Intelligence agencies have warned the Centre against giving prior permission to NGOs to dispense their funds in India— “although there is no concrete evidence against US based organisations willing to fund research assistance programs, the real intention of the promoters of such organisations are always shrouded in mystery.” Sources said that foreign intelligence agencies are known for operating through a myriad of unsuspecting ways and the government should not take any chances as it may make Indian parliamentary institutions vulnerable.
The Home Ministry feels it is a matter of national pride that in India, which has emerged as an economic super-power, MPs should be allowed to receive research support from LAMP fellows paid out of foreign funds. It also said ‘undue influence’ to legislators at later stages cannot be overruled. In September 2012, the Home Ministry had barred IPRS from receiving contributions from the US-based agencies; the Ford Foundation and Omidyar network, for research assistance to Indian MPs through LAMP.
The Home Ministry has advised that the possibility of creating a mechanism to provide research assistance to legislators through the HRD Ministry and exclusively funded by public money be explored. The HRD ministry is mum on this issue. Meanwhile, Intelligence sources say that some MPs are believed to be lobbying to ensure that the funding is restored to the NGO.
- Sunday Standard