Officials arrested over alleged bribes forced on NGOs applying for licence renewal
by Nirmala Carvalho

Indian authorities uncover widespread corruption in Home Affairs Ministry involving NGOs forced to pay bribes to get licence to receive foreign funds. Thousands of NGOs have seen their licence expire waiting for renewal after new legislation came into effect. The case of the Sisters of Mother Teresa highlighted the situation last Christmas.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken into custody ten people, including six government officials, for allegedly taking bribes to enable non-governmental organisations to receive funds from abroad.  

The arrests took place at the end of an investigation in 40 locations across the country. Those arrested include officials in the department in the federal Home Ministry that enforces the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), the law that regulates foreign funding for NGOs.

The legislation in questions has been controversial since its inception because of the hurdles that must overcome to renew operating licences. The government adopted the law to control foreign-financed activities.

As of yesterday, India has 16,890 NGOs registered under the FCRA, more than 5,000 fewer than on 31 December 2021.

At Christmas news outlets around the world reported that even the Missionaries of Charity, the Sisters of Mother Teresa, were not able to renew their operating licence. Due to the ensuing uproar, the case was settled within a week and the Sisters got their licence.

This has not been the case for less well-known groups, some of which were asked instead to pay bribes to expedite their application.

“The MHA[*] received complaints of corruption from many NGOs regarding consultants who promised speedy renewal of registration and were charging money for the same. The complaint was examined and the complicity of a few Home Ministry officials was found to be true,” a Home Ministry official said.

The investigation revealed that some consultants advertised their “service” online. Some 12 NGOs are also under investigation, the CIB said.

Some transactions involved up to 20 million rupees (US$ 260,000) through illegal channels. Searches were carried out in Delhi, Rajasthan, Chennai and Mysore.

[*] Ministry of Home Affairs.