In India, NGOs lose license over 'change in addresses'

The Secretariat Building is home to most ministries of India’s cabinet, including the Ministry of Home Affairs, which canceled the licenses of more than 4,000 nongovernmental organizations in the country. Photo by: sapru / CC BY-NC

More than 4,000 nongovernmental organizations in India are under threat of not receiving international funding for the next three years following the government’s decision to cancel their licenses under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs posted the decision on its website in August — something that caught a number of NGOs by surprise. While the FCRA says no certificate of cancellation will be issued “unless the person concerned has been given a reasonable opportunity to be heard,” many NGOs reportedly were not given the chance to respond.

The decision was largely due to “changes of addresses,” the ministry told the Voluntary Action Network India, an NGO collective representing Indian NGOs’ concerns and issues through advocacies and networking. The body met with the ministry following the license cancellations.

The act regulates the flow and use of foreign contributions to NGOs in India, and organizations need a license to receive international funding.

The cancellations are likely to have a detrimental impact on India’s social sectors, including health and education. Deaths of children under 5 in India remain a concern, and some 16 million children are not attending school, Indian Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal told The Indian Express in February. Without foreign funding, NGOs working in these sectors might not be able to carry out programs to address such concerns.

The decision could also affect India’s poorest states, which include Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. In Orissa alone, 160 NGOs are affected by the cancellation.

It is not immediately clear if the NGOs can still appeal the decision, but some already fear their projects “might come to a standstill.”

“We understand that the government needs to screen foreign aid to NGOs,” an unidentified NGO official told The Times of India. “But a blanket order affecting 4,000 institutions is a major setback.”

Some of the NGOs affected by the cancellation include the Oxfam West Orissa Program and Save the Children Canada branch in Pune.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.