India: Ford Foundation funds need government oversight

AP News
|
Posted: Apr 23, 2015 12:50 PM

NEW DELHI (AP) — The Indian government on Thursday ordered the Ford Foundation, one of the U.S.'s largest philanthropies, to get government clearance before dispensing any funds to its local partners, amid a crackdown on foreign-funded aid organizations working in India.

The Home Ministry order said the clearance was needed to ensure the funds were used for "bona fide welfare activities" and cited "national interest and security concerns." It did not elaborate.

The private U.S. foundation, which among other goals works to alleviate poverty and increase international cooperation, said it had not been contacted directly by the Home Ministry. Media reports have said the government is angry about Ford Foundation support for activists working on behalf of victims of the 2002 riots in the state of Gujarat, which occurred when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state's top official.

A foundation statement said it had "no information about the latest news reports."

"As the current inquiry progresses we will continue to respond fully to official queries directed to us," the statement said. "We are confident in our work and compliance with the law and look forward to the outcome of this inquiry."

Modi's government has made clear it views aid organizations — particularly foreign ones — with deep suspicion. He has derided protesters with foreign backing as "five-star activists."

The crackdown began after a government intelligence report said that local activists were working on the orders of foreign powers to undermine India's economic growth. The report said India lost up to 3 percent of its gross domestic product when the groups rallied communities against polluting industries.

Most recently, the Home Ministry suspended the registration of the environmental group Greenpeace India for six months, saying it had under-reported foreign contributions and used them without government approval. Greenpeace has 30 days to challenge the order and cannot use its local bank accounts during that time.

The Home Ministry said Indian banks have been told to monitor Ford Foundation spending to ensure it gets clearance for any financial transfers.