06/25/2015, 00.00
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Caritas India under watch but not yet requiring “prior approval”

The charity’s executive director told AsiaNews that his organisation has not received any communication in the matter. Government sources suggest that the Catholic charity is accused of funding “anti-Indian” activities. In business for 53 years, the Catholic relief agency is into development, disaster management and rehabilitation. For Caritas Asia coordinator, the information “is unfounded”.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – "We heard media reports saying that Caritas India had been added to the list of NGO that require ‘prior approval’ from the Home Affairs Ministry. However, we have not received any official communication in the matter,” said Fr Frederick D'Souza, executive director of the Catholic charity, which is the relief service of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) and the national chapter of Caritas Internationalis.

Recently, some reports indicate that the Indian government had added Caritas India to its watch list of foreign NGOs. Organisations on this list require “prior approval” under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 (FCRA), which governs foreign funding for NGOs.

Being included in this list means that foreign funds for a particular NGO cannot be directly deposited in its bank account, but must be approved by the Home Affairs Ministry. According to a government official who requested anonymity, Caritas India was added to the list because its money was used, through various NGOs, to fund “anti-Indian activities”.

In 2012, secret services report cited the Catholic organisation as working "against the economic interests of the country". Its support for demonstrations against the controversial Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu was cited as one of the alleged anti-Indian activities.

The plant began operating in 2013 despite strong local opposition. However, during the protests, which culminated in violent clashes with police, the authorities frequently accused the local Church of provoking the demonstrations because it received funds from foreign NGOs.

Based on these claims, the government froze the bank accounts of four groups for a long period. Two of those groups are led by Mgr Yvon Ambroise, bishop of Tuticurin.

"As an organisation of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, we have responded to every disaster that has occurred in this country, bringing relief and rehabilitation to the victims, this for over 53 years,” Fr D'Souza told AsiaNews.

Caritas India works with 350 NGOs across India and has over 250,000 volunteers. Established in 1962, the organisation has earned widespread praise in the country for its work in development and disaster management, through various activities and projects, all in collaboration with various government departments.

AsiaNews contacted Caritas Asia for confirmation of what Fr D'Souza said. “News that Caritas India was added on the Indian government’s financial blacklist is completely unfounded,” said its regional coordinator Fr Zar Gomes. “It is just a rumour picked up by an irresponsible media outlet.”

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