Save The Children, a prominent child rights organisation operating in 116 countries with a presence in India since 2008 under the name Bal Raksha Bharat, finds itself in a challenging situation as its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license renewal has been rejected by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). This decision comes in the wake of the organisation’s previous run-in with the government over a malnutrition fundraising campaign, which the Ministry of Women and Child Development objected to, citing their active pursuit of the issue through government schemes.
Multiple sources within the civil society sector have confirmed that Save The Children’s request for FCRA license renewal was denied, and their name no longer appears on the list of organisations with valid FCRA registration on the MHA’s website.
In response to the rejection, a spokesperson for Bal Raksha Bharat expressed surprise, saying, ‘The non-renewal of our FCRA application has come as a surprise to us. We will work with the government and are hopeful of resolving this situation at the earliest. In the meantime, we will continue to provide critical services to the community and children’.
Previously, the organisation’s FCRA registration was valid until November 2021. Still, the Ministry of Home Affairs had extended the validity for NGOs until 31 March 2022, as long as their renewal requests had not been refused and were submitted within six months of the registration’s expiry, with a deadline of 31 December 2021. This deadline was subsequently extended several times, with the latest cutoff being 30 September 2023.
The FCRA registration is a crucial requirement for organisations to receive foreign funds. In the last five years, the government has revoked the FCRA registration of 1,827 NGOs, as per the information provided by Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai in the Rajya Sabha in March 2023. Notable organisations affected include Oxfam International and the think-tank Centre for Policy Research.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development had raised concerns regarding Save The Children’s campaign to raise funds from the general public to combat malnutrition among tribal children. They labelled it as ‘misleading’ and emphasised that the government was actively addressing the issue through its Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 scheme. Additionally, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had previously criticised the depiction of vulnerable children in distressing conditions for fundraising activities, warning that such actions could violate the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015.
From a legal perspective, Save The Children’s FCRA license rejection is in line with the government’s authority under FCRA regulations. FCRA licenses require periodic renewal, and they can be denied if there are concerns about non-compliance, financial discrepancies, or activities conflicting with national interests. In this case, the objection by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to the organisation’s malnutrition fundraising campaign may have influenced the decision. NGOs like Save The Children should maintain transparency, follow FCRA guidelines, and cooperate with authorities to address concerns and potentially appeal license rejections with the help of legal experts, aiming for collaboration with the government to effectively address societal issues.
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