India Gov't Proposes Stiffer Law to Regulate Foreign Donations

The Indian government has proposed a new law that Christian leaders in India fear would be misused to reduce foreign donations to churches in India, according to U.S.-based persecution watchdog group.

The Foreign Contribution Management and Control Bill (FCMC), proposed by India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), would give the Indian government more power to control foreign donations and to refuse or cancel the registration of non-profit organizations, reported Santa Ana, Calif.-based Compass Direct.

According to Compass, the move to amend the existing bill was initiated by the former National Democratic Alliance, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in 2000. The BJP alleged non-profit and non-governmental organizations were misusing foreign money for illegal and anti-national activities, including religious conversions.

“Indications are that the government might use the proposed law against the church,” John Dayal, national president of the All India Catholic Union and secretary general of the All India Christian Council, told Compass.

Sources say the new law would replace the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) of 1976 that requires all Indian organizations and individuals having “a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social program” to receive clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs, by either registration or prior permission, before accepting foreign contributions.

While the new law states that any individual or organization seeking permission to receive foreign funds must have a “meaningful project” for the benefit of “the people living in the district,” Compass noted that the term “meaningful project” was not defined.

In addition, the nonprofit organization must show that it has projects in the city where it is located.

“This stipulation could be problematic for many nonprofits that concentrate their work outside the districts where their head offices are located,” Compass reported.

“We must not forget that the former ruling BJP used the FCRA entirely against the church and against nonprofits that it did not like,” said Dayal.

According to secretary general, the 1976 FCRA bill was passed when India’s former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, feared her rival was using foreign funds to build opposition to her government. He said Gandhi’s Congress Party later used the FCRA against the church and other minority groups.