By Pragya Kaushika
New Delhi [India], September 21 (ANI): The Lok Sabha passed the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment), Bill, by voice vote on Monday. Amid opposition calling it an instrument to tighten the noose around NGOs and minorities, the Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai in his reply to members categorically stated that the bill is "neither against NGOs nor an attack on any religion."
Rai added that the amendments in the Bill are not against any NGO and nor an attack on any religion.
"It is a national and internal security law that aims to ensure foreign funds do not harm public life, the political environment of the country. PM Modi wants to secure this country. Many in past have hurt the nation's cultural/ internal and democratic security and to protect them is our prime concern," stated Rai.
This clarification was necessitated as BJP MP Satyapal Singh raked up Graham Stained murder case and linked it to forced conversions and sexual assault on girls by Christian missionaries that received funds from abroad.
To this, Dr. Veeraswamy Kalanidhi of DMK argued that if Dakota gets better treatment in other religions why not go to that religion. This argument was protested by Union Minister Anurag Thakur.
Replying point by point to the MPs who spoke on the bills and raised doubts on amendments, the Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said that the public servant word is incorporated to include all those using government money.
"Be it judiciary, politicians of any rank, even officials like public prosecutors should be covered in it," stated Rai.
The opposition, however, did not relent.
AITC Sougata Roy quoted Geroge Orwell's novel 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', to draw home the point that bill is an attempt by the Union home ministry to 'tighten the screws of the organizations that receive funds from abroad. Roy objected to Adhaar card made mandatory despite the Supreme Court stating it isn't a compulsory document.
Supriya Sule, MP NCP asked how did the government reach the magic number of reducing the administrative expenses funds by FCRA funds from 50 per cent to 20 per cent. She claimed that NGOs provide employment and these amendments would hamper that.
"In clause 5, Adhaar has to be there, the Supreme Court said it is not required. Why was Adhaar made compulsory? Why only the State bank of India and only in Delhi given the mandate to open FCRA accounts? Did you mean that other banks aren't capable of doing it and BJP MP Satyapal Singh spoke about one NGO whereas there are many doing good work," stated Sule.
Replying to the debate on the bill, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said that while it is mandatory to open an account in Delhi's SBI, the opening of other accounts is also allowed to the organizations taking foreign funds. On doubts about why not allowed to transfer money to other organisations accounts, Rai said why delegate when the organisation is taking money to undertake the work. "I am not against NGOs per se but those who take money for the public and use it in the family are to be watched."
"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 contributions. 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 the central government wants that such money should be spent in the public interest. "The opposition does not want to stop misuse of foreign money. We will stop the misuse," Rai said.
"If the director or manager of an organisation wants 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 bill provides for the insertion of a new section 12A empowering the central government to require Aadhaar number etc as an identification document and insertion of a new section 14A enabling the government to permit any person to surrender the certificate granted under the Act.
On freezing the account, the government has given itself powers to cease accounts why not, ask the minister. "If they are found misusing the funds, why not freeze the accounts" added the minister.
Amendment of section 17 provides that every person who has been granted a 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.
As the majority of the opposition members objected to the Adhaar card making it mandatory, Rai said that the Supreme Court has given provision that to establish identity Aadhar can be made compulsory. (ANI)