Friday, July 19, 2024

Tamil Nadu NGOs accused of FCRA violation, anti-development funding suspected: Legal Rights Protection Forum

The Legal Rights Protection Forum, a legal activist group, has written to the Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights on November 6, urging the commission to request the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and other relevant intelligence agencies to register a case and take further action against the Tuticorin Diocesan Association, a Tamil Nadu-based non-governmental organisation.

It also asked the national commission to constitute a multi-disciplinary team of child welfare experts, chartered accountants and law enforcement officials and conduct a detailed investigation of the activities of the NGO and decide whether it has right to function as a registered society.

The activist group alleged that the Tuticorin Diocesan Association has continued to receive funds from foreign players despite the suspension and cancellation of its FCRA registration on February 25, 2015, by the then Union Law Minister, Kiren Rijiju because of adverse reports received from the intelligence agencies.

However, data from the Ministry of Home Affairs, showed that the NGO continued to receive Rs 4,45,07,214 into its Bank of Baroda account at Tuticorin branch, which is designated to receive foreign funds, from 2015-16 onwards. Hence, the call to request the ED and other relevant law enforcement agencies to register a case in this matter of economic offense.

The NGO claims that it is running and maintaining Homes for destitute children, specialised adoption agencies, homes for mentally retarded boys and rescue homes for boys and girls. It also mentions that it is running and maintaining educational institutions and religious places.

At the time of suspension/cancellation of the FCRA registration of The Tuticorin Diocesan Association, the major reason provided by the Indian government was that the “NGOs were using foreign funds for anti-national activities”.

Detailed analysis of the flow of funds revealed that ‘Child Welfare’ was only an excuse to carry out anti-national activities which have a serious bearing on the territorial integrity, economic prosperity and political stability of the nation.

The Legal Rights Protection Forum further added that while receipt of funds under the FCRA route even after cancellation of the FCRA licence of the NGO, was a serious violation, but the large-scale diversion of the funds raises even more serious questions and merits a deeper investigation by concerned authorities.

Similarly, the legal activist group has also made serious violations charges against a Christian NGO ‘Jesus Redeems’ based in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu.

The NGO, run by Mohan C Lazarus, is known for disturbing communal harmony by making anti-Hindu statements, against Hindu temples and Hindu Gods at mass religious gathering and has many FIRs registered against him at various police stations of Tamil Nadu.

A key allegation is that the NGO was flouting the rules of the recent amended FCRA.

Under the new rules, the chief functionary of the recipient Indian organisation should not be a part of the donor organisation, but Lazarus continues to be Chief Executive Officer of a US registered Public Charity organisation named ‘Jesus Redeems Ministries Inc.’ which is a significant foreign contributor to “Jesus Redeems.”

Hence, the Legal Rights Protection Forum had been demanding the suspension and cancellation of its FCRA license.

Similarly, on April 5, 2023, the Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Rajya Sabha that it was examining the complaints against an NGO — The Other Media — for misusing foreign funds to organise protests and demonstration around Vedanta Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu.

The Minister of State for Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai said in a written reply that it had “received some representation and complaints alleging violations of the FCRA for the New Delhi-based NGO.”

The minister added that in case incidence of violations of provisions of the FCRA, are found, the certificate of FCRA registration of the association may be cancelled under Section 14 of the Act.

Earlier three NGOs — the Tuticorin Diocesan Association, Tuticorin, the East Coast Research and Development Trust, Thoothukudi and Greenpeace India Society, Chennai — had their FCRA registration cancelled and their bank accounts frozen, after detailed investigation against them.

The Greenpeace International was put under the watch list and the case of the Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns, Madurai, was referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation, according to a release by the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs on March 4, 2015.

In January 2022, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a case against the programming unit of the Centre for promotion of Social Concerns, People’s Watch, headed by Henri Tiphagne.

Incidentally, all these organisations accused of violating FCRA norms have been actively involved in anti-development activism across South India and were also involved in the protests against Kudankulam Nuclear Plant and Sterlite Copper in Tamil Nadu.

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