The Union government said that certain non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were trying to “change the demography” of the country through foreign funding and this would not be allowed.
GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Policies & Interventions, Non-Governmental Organisations -NGOs), GS-III: Indian Economy (External Sector, Mobilization of Resources)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is the FCRA?
- Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010
- Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020
- Issues Related to FCRA
- Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in India
- Why have NGOs been controversial recently?
- MHA guidelines regarding FCRA and NGOs
What is the FCRA?
- The FCRA was enacted during the Emergency in 1976 amid apprehensions that foreign powers were interfering in India’s affairs by pumping money into the country through independent organisations.
- These concerns were, in fact, even older — they had been expressed in Parliament as early as in 1969.
- The law sought to regulate foreign donations to individuals and associations so that they functioned “in a manner consistent with the values of a sovereign democratic republic”.
Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010
The Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act, 2010 is a consolidating act whose scope is to regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations or companies and to prohibit acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Key Points regarding FCRA
- Foreign funding of voluntary organizations in India is regulated under FCRA act and is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- The FCRA regulates the receipt of funding from sources outside of India to NGOs working in India.
- It prohibits the receipt of foreign contribution “for any activities detrimental to the national interest”.
- The Act held that the government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state”. However, there is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.
- The Acts ensures that the recipients of foreign contributions adhere to the stated purpose for which such contribution has been obtained.
- Under the Act, organisations require to register themselves every five years.
Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020
- The Act bars public servants from receiving foreign contributions. Public servant includes any person who is in service or pay of the government, or remunerated by the government for the performance of any public duty.
- The Act prohibits the transfer of foreign contribution to any other person not registered to accept foreign contributions.
- The Act makes Aadhaar number mandatory for all office bearers, directors or key functionaries of a person receiving foreign contribution, as an identification document.
- The Act states that foreign contribution must be received only in an account designated by the bank as FCRA account in such branches of the State Bank of India, New Delhi.
- The Act proposes that not more than 20% of the total foreign funds received could be defrayed for administrative expenses. In FCRA 2010 the limit was 50%.
- The Act allows the central government to permit a person to surrender their registration certificate.
Issues Related to FCRA
- The Act also held that the government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state” – however, there is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.
- By allowing only some political groups to receive foreign donations and disallowing some others, can induce biases in favour of the government. NGOs need to tread carefully when they criticise the regime, knowing that too much criticism could cost their survival. FCRA norms can reduce critical voices by declaring them to be against the public interest – Hence, it can be said that FCRA restrictions have serious consequences on both the rights to free speech and freedom of association under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(c) of the Constitution.
- In 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association undertook a legal analysis of the FCRA and stated that restrictions in the name of “public interest” and “economic interest” failed the test of “legitimate restrictions” as they were too vague and gave the state excessive discretionary powers to apply the provision in an arbitrary manner.
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in India
- Worldwide, the term ‘NGO’ is used to describe a body that is neither part of a government nor a conventional for-profit business organisation.
- NGOs are groups of ordinary citizens that are involved in a wide range of activities that may have charitable, social, political, religious or other interests.
- In India, NGOs can be registered under a plethora of Acts such as the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, Religious Endowments Act,1863, Indian Trusts Act, etc.
- India has possibly the largest number of active NGOs in the world.
- Ministries such as Health and Family Welfare, Human Resource Department, etc., provide funding to NGOs, but only a handful of NGOs get hefty government funds.
- NGOs also receive funds from abroad, if they are registered with the Home Ministry under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). There are more than 22,500 FCRA-registered NGOs.
- Registered NGOs can receive foreign contribution under five purposes — social, educational, religious, economic and cultural.
Why have NGOs been controversial recently?
- An Intelligence Bureau (IB) report, submitted to the PMO and National Security Adviser in 2019, alleged that several foreign-funded NGOs were stalling India’s economic growth by their obstructionist activism.
- In 2015, the Home Ministry had cancelled the FCRA licences of 10,000 organisations.
- The annual inflow of foreign contribution has almost doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, but many recipients of foreign contribution are being not utilised the same for the purpose for which they were registered or granted prior permission under amended provisions of the FCRA 2010.
MHA guidelines regarding FCRA and NGOs
- The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued new regulating guidelines to banks under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. It states that the donations received in Indian rupees by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and associations from any foreign source (even if that source is located in India at the time of such donation) should be treated as foreign contribution.
- Under the issued regulations, donations given in Indian rupees (INR) by any foreigner/foreign source including foreigners of Indian origin like Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) or Person of India Origin (PIO) cardholders should also be treated as foreign contribution.
- The guidelines mandate that good practices should be followed by NGOs in accordance with standards of global financial watchdog- Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
- MHA asked NGOs to inform the Ministry about “suspicious activities” of any donor or recipient and “take due diligence of its employees at the time of recruitment.”
-Source: The Hindu
In a boost to the country’s maritime capabilities, INS Mormugao has officially joined the Indian Navy’s fleet, marking a significant milestone for indigenous military expedition.
- The warship ‘Yard 12705’, named after the Goan port city of Mormugao, is the second of the four Visakhapatnam-class destroyers being built under the Indian Navy Project 15B, or P15B.
GS III: Defence
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is Project 15B?
- What are the capabilities of INS Mormugao?
- What is the strategic importance?
What is Project 15B?
- Project 15 was launched in the 1990s to add guided missile destroyers to the inventory of the Indian Navy.
- The project was named ‘Delhi class’. It was followed by Project 15A or Kolkata class which primarily focused on advanced technology and equipment in surface ships.
- Project 15B or the Visakhapatnam class is a follow-on class of weapon-intensive Project 15A destroyers.
- The project was launched in January 2011 to incorporate advanced design concepts such as state-of-the-art weapons and sensors, advanced stealth features and a high degree of automation for “improved survivability, sea keeping, stealth and manoeuvrability”.
- The lead ship of Project 15B, INS Visakhapatnam, was the first of the class to be commissioned.
What are the capabilities of INS Mormugao?
- The destroyer has multi-dimensional combat capabilities which include surface-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles and modern surveillance radar.
- Regarded as “one of the most potent warships to have been constructed in the country”, the destroyer is 163 metres long, 17 metres wide and displaces 7,400 tonnes when fully loaded.
- The ship is propelled by four gas turbines in a combined gas and gas (COGAG) configuration.
- The propulsion system allows the ship to achieve a speed of more than 30 knots (50km/h) and a maximum range of 4,000 nautical miles. It can accommodate a crew of about 300 personnel.
- INS Mormugao’s firepower comprises BrahMos surface-to-surface missiles (SSM), Barak-8 surface-to-air (SAM) missiles for a long range of shore and sea-based targets and a 76mm super rapid gun mount.
- The ship is armed with RBU-6000 anti-submarine rocket launchers and 533mm torpedo launchers. It is also equipped to carry and operate multi-role helicopters.
- Its enhanced stealth features ensure a reduced Radar Cross Section or radar signature.
Sophisticated digital networks:
- It is automated with sophisticated digital networks such as the Gigabyte Ethernet-based Ship Data Network (GESDN), the Combat Management System (CMS), Automatic Power Management System (APMS), Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) and Ship Data Network (SDN).
- While the CMS performs threat evaluation and resource allocation based on the tactical picture compiled and ammunition available onboard, APMS controls power management.
- IPMS is used to control and monitor machinery and auxiliaries and the SDN is the ‘information highway for data’ from sensors and weapons.
- The ship has multiple fire zones, battle damage control systems, distributional power systems to enhance survivability in emergencies and a total atmospheric control system to protect the crew against nuclear, biological and chemical threats.
What is the strategic importance?
- While India’s interests are closely tied to the Indian Ocean, China has been rapidly expanding its naval footprint in the region.
- Amid growing Chinese strategic interests, India renewed its focus on bolstering its maritime capabilities in the region to counter the threat.
- Government’s resolve to prepare the nation to deal with any situation arising due to the changing global scenario.
- Economic, political and trade relations between countries are constantly evolving.
- The COVID-19 pandemic, the situation in the Middle East, Afghanistan and now Ukraine.
- It directly or indirectly impacts every country in one way or another.
- In this era of globalisation, almost all nations are dependent on each other in the field of trade.
- Hence, rule-based freedom of navigation, security of sea lanes etc. have become more important than ever for stability and economic progress of the world,” he said.
- The addition of a technologically advanced stealth warship to the naval inventory provides a strategic advantage to India and adds to the combat capabilities of the armed forces.
- Besides surface operations, guided missile destroyers are capable of engaging in anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare.
-Source: The Hindu
Recently, The Lok Sabha referred the Multi-State Co-operative Societies (Amendment) Bill 2022 to a joint committee of Parliament.
GS II: Government Policies and Interventions
Dimensions of the Article:
- What are multi-State cooperatives?
- Importance of Cooperative Banks
- What are the issues with the cooperative sector?
- What does the Bill seek to change?
What are multi-State cooperatives?
- According to the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), cooperatives are people-centred enterprises jointly owned and democratically controlled by and for their members to realise common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations.
- Multi-State cooperatives are societies that have operations in more than one State — for instance, a farmer-producers organisation which procures grains from farmers from multiple States.
- The board of directors are from all the States these collectives operate in and control all the finances and administration.
- There are close to 1,500 MSCSs registered in India with the highest number being in Maharashtra.
Importance of Cooperative Banks
The cooperative banking system has to play a critical role in promoting rural finance and is especially suited to Indian conditions.
Various advantages of cooperative credit institutions are given below:
- Alternative Credit Source: The main objective of the cooperative credit movement is to provide an effective alternative to the traditional defective credit system of the village moneylender.
- Cheap Rural Credit: Cooperative credit system has cheapened the rural credit by charging comparatively low-interest rates, and has broken the money lender’s monopoly.
- Productive Borrowing: The cultivators used to borrow for consumption and other unproductive purposes. But, now, they mostly borrow for productive purposes.
- Encouragement to Saving and Investment: Instead of hoarding money the rural people tend to deposit their savings in cooperative or other banking institutions.
- Improvement in Farming Methods: Cooperative credit is available for purchasing improved seeds, chemical fertilizers, modern implements, etc.
- Financial Inclusion: They have played a significant role in the financial inclusion of unbanked rural masses. They provide cheap credit to the masses in rural areas
What are the issues with the cooperative sector?
- The independent and autonomous character of cooperative societies was to be crucial in their functioning.
- The inclusion of cooperatives in the planning process as development instruments made the sector an avenue for dispensing patronage to the supporters of ruling political parties.
- Moreover, the policy of State governments to contribute to the share capital of the cooperatives enabled governments, “in the name of public interest” to directly intervene in the working of cooperatives which are legally autonomous.
- Besides, MSCSs were formed to ease the operation of collectives throughout the country. MSCSs are facing issues regarding trust, which is the very basis of cooperation. This has brought MSCSs under multiple controls from the Centre.
- Monitoring is one of the important institutional functions in a collective organisation but if monitored from much above, it takes a top-down approach as opposed to a grassroots one.
What does the Bill seek to change?
To improve governance:
- To plug the “loopholes” in the MSCS Act, the Centre introduced a Bill seeking to amend the 2002 law for more “transparency” and “ease of doing business”.
- The amendments have been introduced to improve governance, reform the electoral process, strengthen monitoring mechanisms and enhance transparency and accountability.
- The Bill also seeks to improve the composition of the board and ensure financial discipline, besides enabling the raising of funds in multi-State cooperative societies.
Central Co-operative Election Authority:
- The Bill provides for the creation of a central Co-operative Election Authority to supervise the electoral functions of the MSCSs.
- The Authority will have a chairperson, vice-chairperson, and up to three members appointed by the Centre.
Co-operative Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Development Fund:
- It also envisages the creation of a Co-operative Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Development Fund for the revival of sick multi-State co-operatives societies.
- This fund shall be financed by existing profitable multi-State co-operative societies which will have to deposit either ₹1 crore or 1% of the net profit into the Fund.
Cooperative Information Officer and a Cooperative Ombudsman:
- In order to make the governance of multi-State cooperative societies more democratic, the Bill has provisions for appointing a Cooperative Information Officer and a Cooperative Ombudsman.
- To promote equity and facilitate inclusiveness, provisions relating to the representation of women and Scheduled Caste/Tribe members on the boards of multi-State cooperative societies have also been included.
-Source: The Hindu
The renowned Tal Chhapar Blackbuck Sanctuary in Churu, Rajasthan, recently secured protection against a state proposal to shrink the area of its Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ).
GS III: Environment and Ecology
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Tal Chhapar Sanctuary
- What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?
About Tal Chhapar Sanctuary
- On the edge of the Great Indian Thar Desert is where you’ll find the Tal Chhapar Sanctuary.
- The most graceful antelope seen in India, the “Blackbuck,” has its own particular home, called Tal Chhapar.
- In 1966, it received the designation of sanctuary.
- Tal Chhapar was a hunting preserve owned by the former Bikaner royal family.
- The Rajasthani term “Tal” means “plane land.”
- This sanctuary has a largely level landscape with a thin, low-lying area combined. It has broad, vast grasslands with dispersed Acacia and Prosopis plants that give it the appearance of a typical Savanna.
- Tal Chhapar is an ideal place to see Blackbucks which are more than a thousand in number here. It is a good place to see the desert animals and reptile species.
- The sanctuary, which spans an area of 7.19 sq km, has also been the focus of a significant effort by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) for the conservation of raptors.
What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?
- Eco Sensitive Zones are fragile areas around protected areas declared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
- They are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
- The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
- Among activities prohibited in the eco-sensitive zone are hydroelectric projects, brick kilns, commercial use of firewood and discharge of untreated effluents in natural water bodies or land areas.
- No new commercial hotels and resorts shall be permitted within 1 km of the boundary of the protected area or up to the extent of the eco-sensitive zone, whichever is nearer, except for small temporary structures for eco-tourism activities.
Activities Allowed in ESZs
- Prohibited activities: Commercial mining, saw mills, industries causing pollution (air, water, soil, noise etc), establishment of major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood, Tourism activities like hot-air balloons over the National Park, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances.
- Regulated activities: Felling of trees, establishment of hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agriculture system, e.g. adoption of heavy technology, pesticides etc, widening of roads.
- Permitted activities: Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, adoption of green technology for all activities.