New Delhi(Indiatoday):The Ministry of Home Affairs has cleared the file revoking the FCRA registration of activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Sabrang Trust.Sabrang has been charged with diverting foreign contributions from Ford Foundation to non-FCRA registered entities and also violating other FCRA provisions.
Former Home Secretary LC Goyal had earlier objected to cancelling the FCRA clearance of Setalwad’s NGO. But with Goyal being shunted out of the Home Ministry, the new incumbent Rajeev Mehrishi has given his go ahead to suspending the registration of Sabrang Trust under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 and also serving it a notice for cancellation of the NGO’s FCRA licence.
FCRA clearance is required by NGOs to be able to generate funds from foreign sources. The government’s action will henceforth bar all foreign funding to the NGO. Sabrang has been charged with diverting foreign contributions from Ford Foundation to non-FCRA registered entities and also violating other FCRA provisions.
Ministry of Home Affairs sources told India Today that the FCRA wings has been able to build a strong case against Teesta Setalwad. Sabrang Trust is charged with using foreign donations to the tune of $2,50,000 received from the Ford Foundation for purposes other than for what the grant was received. The trust is alleged to have used the Ford grant to identify and lobby with journalists to fight communalism in India. The FCRA wing of MHA claims this is unlawful because the trust is registered under FCRA as an educational and social organisation.
MHA files show that Teesta and her husband had been using NGO funds for their personal expenses, in addition to drawing a fixed salary. The investigation into Sabrang Trust’s records accounts shows that Setalvad and her husband had spent over 64 per cent of the total donation worth Rs 48.42 lakhs received in 2010-11 and 55 per cent of Rs 49 lakhs received in 2011-12 on administrative expenses, which is in excess of the 50 per cent limit set as per the FCRA.
The government’s report also notes that Setalvad’s organisations – Sabrang Trust, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and Sabrang Communications and Publishing Private Limited (SCPPL) were using the same office, furniture and resources but showing them as separate entities in their accounts.
Another violation mentioned in the inspection report was the payment of Setalvad and Anand’s credit card bills with funds from Sabrang Trust’s FCRA account. This is a violation of Section 8(1) of FCRA. Anand is also accused of diverting FCRA funds to pay for his medical policy, attending conferences and purchase of books.
There has been a huge national and international outcry to the actions taken by the Modi government against Teesta Setalwad. Activists accuse the Modi govt of going on a witch hunt against the one person who fought the 2002 riot cases on behalf of the victims. The Sabrang Trust, in its response to the MHA inspection report denied all the charges levelled against it. Setalvad has earlier described the action against her NGOs as being politically motivated and a result of her challenging the Modi government in Gujarat after the 2002 riots.
However, the central government denies charges of the actions being driven by personal vendetta. The government says all action has been taken in accordance with the law of the land.