On tweeter, a “shocked” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee slams the freezing of the Sisters’ bank accounts because of the consequences for the poor. India’s Home Affair Minister replied saying that while the Sisters’ application to renew their registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act was not approved, they can continue to operate until 31 December. The Sisters put their accounts on hold pending a resolution of the issue.
Kolkata (AsiaNews) - The bank accounts of the Missionaries of Charity, the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (Kolkata), are at the centre of a political row in India.
This morning, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted that the “Union Ministry FROZE ALL BANK ACCOUNTS of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in India” on Christmas day.
Ms Banerjee, deemed one of the most influential opponents of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wrote that she was “shocked” by the decision, which left “22,000 patients & employees [. . .] without food & medicines.”
Later in the evening, the Union Home Affairs Ministry released a statement clarifying the matter. It noted that Missionaries of Charity’s application to renew their registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) was not approved on 25 December.
The legislation, which regulates foreign contributions to Indian charities, was tightened in 2020 by the Modi government, creating difficulties for many international organisations operating in India.
In its statement, the ministry said that the Sisters of Charity’s accounts were not frozen, but that some unspecified “adverse inputs were noticed”; in the meantime, the existing registration will remain in place until 31 December 2021.
As a precaution, the Missionaries of Charity decided to put their accounts on hold until the matter is resolved.
More broadly, Catholic charities face growing obstacles in a climate of accusations by Hindu nationalists against Catholic organisations allegedly involved in “conversions”.
The bank accounts issue comes in the wake of an inquiry launched almost three weeks ago in Gujarat against an orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity, following a visit by an official with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
The accusation made in that case was that of forcing girls at the facility to “convert”, a charge the Sisters of Mother Teresa flatly deny.