New Delhi: Several representatives of a number of NGOs on Friday raised concern over the manner Prime Minister Narendra Modi deals with them when it comes to receiving foreign funds, and said they did not pose any security threat to the country.
They said on the one hand the government was trying to create a favourable economic environment for foreign investors in the country, and on the other it was restricting the ability of NGOs to contribute to the economic and social development and the empowerment of disadvantaged segments of society in the name of national security.
Mathew Cherian of the Voluntary Action Network of India, told a press conference here that the government was using the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to target organisations working to protect rights of marginal populations.
"It's a worrisome trend," he said.
Anand Grover of the Lawyers Collective said that people who steal crores of rupees were roaming scot-free whereas others who intend to utilise foreign funds for social work were being targeted.
"Tell us what wrong have we done in terms of work," he asked the government, adding that civil society organisations do not have any ill-feeling towards the government and would do everything required of them but they must not be harassed.
Paul Diwakar of the National Campaign on Dalit Rights said the law was being used to target selectively organisations committed to the cause of social justice.
Anjali Gopalan of NAZ Foundation also echoed the same views saying when it hurts organisation like Lawyers Collective, which had been majorly responsible for bringing to the fore issues that had been closeted for years, "it serves no purpose".
They were of the view that a concerted attempt was being made by the state to use the FCRA law to erode the credibility of leading and highly reputed NGOs.
"With the law getting increasingly geared towards restricting the capability of NGOs to receive foreign funds rather than facilitate them to work for the most marginalised, which is high on the agenda of the present government, it is clearly a case of no-win-win for all concerned," Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said.
Mona Mishra, an activist, supported the speakers saying that if this is an attempt to silence the voices of marginalised groups, we are committed to not let that happen.
"This is a struggle for our legitimate space in Indian democracy," she added.
The representatives also said that foreign funds they used to get have come down drastically affecting their work seriously.
They said according to government records, the various NGOs in the country received funding of Rs 13,600 crore from foreign countries during the financial year of 2013-14, which came down to Rs 7,600 during 2014-15.
This was affecting their social work, they said, adding that they were not indulging in any anti-national activities as was being alleged by the Modi government.