Incomprehensible: Centre for Policy Research reaction to cancelled FCRA registration

The move comes nearly a year after the ministry of home affairs suspended the NGO's registration under FCRA

Representative image
Representative image

NH Digital

The government has cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of prominent public thinktank Centre for Policy Research (CPR) for alleged violation of laws, officials said on Wednesday.

The move came nearly a year after the ministry of home affairs (MHA) had suspended the NGO's registration under FCRA. The think-tank was under scrutiny following surveys carried out by the Income Tax department.

The MHA has cancelled the FCRA registration of the NGO for alleged violations of the provisions of the foreign funding law. The FCRA licence was suspended in February 2023 for 180 days, which was extended for another 180 days.

According to its website, CPR has been one of India's leading public policy think-tanks since 1973. It says it is a "non-profit, non-partisan, independent institution" dedicated to conducting research that contributes to high quality scholarship, better policies, and a more robust public discourse about issues that impact life in India.

Among its donors are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, World Bank, Ford Foundation, and Brown University, besides many others, officials said.

Former members of the CPR governing body include former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former chief justice of India late Y.V. Chandrachud, and the late veteran journalist B.G. Verghese.

When CPR challenged its suspension in Delhi High Court, the MHA had argued that the thinktank's foreign funding needed to be stopped as it was receiving its foreign contributions for "undesirable purposes" likely to affect the country's economic interest, though it is not immediately clear what these purposes are.

The MHA alleged that the CPR transferred foreign contributions to other entities and deposited the contributions in non-designated accounts in violation of FCRA.

CPR president and chief executive Yamini Aiyar, daughter of veteran Congressman Mani Shankar Aiyar, has told The Hindu that CPR is weighing its options on how it can seek legal redress, and in a statement issued on Wednesday, said: “The basis of this decision is incomprehensible and disproportionate, and some of the reasons given challenge the very basis of the functioning of a research institution. This includes the publication on our website of policy reports emanating from our research being equated with current affairs programming.

“During the tenure of our suspension, we sought and obtained interim redress from the honourable Delhi High Court and will continue to seek recourse in all avenues possible. This cancellation comes after a decision to suspend the FCRA status in February 2023. These actions followed an Income Tax “survey” that took place in September 2022. The actions have had a debilitating impact on the institution’s ability to function by choking all sources of funding.

"This has undermined the institution’s ability to pursue its well-established objective of producing high quality, globally recognised research on policy matters, which it has been recognised for over its 50 years’ existence. During this time the institution has been home to some of the country’s most distinguished academics, diplomats and policymakers."

In July last year, more than 80 retired civil servants had written to Union home minister Amit Shah, to cease "needless harassment of NGOs" serving especially the most marginalised and disadvantaged sections and to adopt a cooperative rather than an adversarial relationship with them.

In September 2022, the Income-Tax department carried out searches at various CPR offices as well as other front-ranking NGOs including Oxfam India. Since then, CPR said, it has responded to all the notices served to it.

With inputs from PTI

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