Lok Sabha allows Aadhaar to be made mandatory for NGOs to receive foreign funds

Lok Sabha allows Aadhaar to be made mandatory for NGOs to receive foreign funds

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the amendments to Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 that seek to make Aadhaar mandatory for office bearers of any NGOs to receive foreign funds.

The Bill says that any person seeking prior permission, registration or renewal of registration must provide the Aadhaar number of its office bearers, directors or key functionaries, as an identification document.

Once the bill is cleared by the Rajya Sabha and gets assent from President Ram Nath Kovind, public servants will be barred from receiving funding from abroad.

Moreover, the Bill proposes that not more than 20% of the total foreign funds received could be spent on administrative expenses. Presently, the limit is 50%.

Amid concerns raised by various Opposition members about the FCRA Amendment Bill, 2020, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said the legislation was not against any religion or NGO.

Replying to the debate on the bill, Rai said that Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 will stop the “misuse of the money” and rejected criticism by some opposition members that it targets minorities and has a few unnecessary provisions.

“When the government brought FCRA Bill in 2010, we were in opposition but we supported it. This amendment is not against NGOs and is not an attack on any religion. It will not stop foreign contribution. FCRA is a national and internal security law. This amendment is essential for Atmanirbhar Bharat,” he said.

He said that the amendment will bring transparency in foreign contributions and central government wants that such money should be spent in public interest. “The opposition does not want to stop misuse of foreign money. We will stop the misuse,” Rai said.

Responding to queries by MPs over Aadhaar card, the minister said that it is a significant proof of identification.

“Issue of Aadhaar Card was raised. Supreme Court clearly said it’s not mandatory to make Aadhaar Card a means to identify oneself everywhere. But it can be made mandatory by bringing a law, if important. Hence the amendment,” he said.

“If director or manager of an organisation want to hide their identity and can’t disclose their address, what work will they do? It casts suspicion on their intention. Why is Aadhaar Card being opposed? The Aadhar Card is a significant proof of identification,” he added.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states the Act came into force on May 1, 2011 and has been amended twice. The first amendment was made by section 236 of the Finance Act, 2016 and the second by section 220 of the Finance Act, 2018.

Amendment of section 17 provides that every person who has been granted certificate or prior permission under section 12 shall receive foreign contribution only in an account designated as ”FCRA Account” which shall be opened by him in such branch of the State Bank of India at New Delhi as the government may, by notification, specify.

However, Congress MP Anto Antony earlier said that the Bill is another “exotic adventure” of the central government after demonetisation and alleged that the bill targets minorities.

Participating in the debate on the bill in the Lok Sabha, Antony said FCRA registrations have been cancelled “for mere technical reasons”.

Over 58,000 crore foreign funds were received by NGOs registered under the FCRA between 2016-17 and 2018-19.

There are around 22,400 NGOs in the country.

With agency inputs

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