American Ford Foundation taken off watch list via Modi Govt

NEW DELHI: Days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S., the Home Ministry issued orders to remove the U.S.-based Ford Foundation from the “prior permission” category.

A view of the Ford Foundation office in Delhi. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

The Ministry, on the basis of a report sent by the Gujarat government last year, had put the international non-governmental organisation on the “watch list”, citing concern to “national security”.

The Gujarat government report had said that the organisation funded the “anti-India” activities of Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust run by Teesta Setalvad, activist.

The Ministry sent a letter to the Reserve Bank of India on March 16 to remove the foundation from the watch list, a senior government official told The Hindu.

The order means that banks will no longer require the Ministry’s clearance to process the foreign funds coming from the foundation to any Indian bank account.

Mr. Modi will meet U.S. President Barack Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

Several U.S. officials, including Ambassador to India Richard Verma, had taken up the Ford Foundation issue with the Centre.

Apart from the diplomatic pressure, Ford Foundation complied with the government’s condition to register itself under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 which enables it to receive foreign funds in its accounts.

Ford Foundation, which has been operating in India since 1952 was not registered either as an NGO or under any other category like the Indian Society Act till now. It applied under FEMA and got registered as a branch office by the Reserve Bank of India in December 2015

Besides Ford Foundation, there are 15 other NGOs/associations, which are under this restricted category.

U.S. ambassador Richard Verma had last year expressed “concern” on the “potentially chilling effects” of the regulatory steps taken against NGOs in India.

The Centre had last year also unblocked foreign funds to the tune of $1,50,000 to be released to the foreign donor’s bank accounts as the organisation had exhausted its options to pay salary to its staffers and made a plea before the government.

On several occasions, Ford Foundation representatives met Nripendra Misra, principal secretary to the Prime Minister of India and explained their position.