NEW DELHI: In what could be a big embarrassment for the government, the Union home ministry has renewed the registration of Greenpeace India under the Foreign Contributions Registration Act (FCRA), 2010, a little over a year after it ordered permanent cancellation of its licence to receive foreign funding.
When contacted by TOI , Greenpeace India’s executive director Ravi Chellam confirmed the renewal of its licence for another period of 5 years. “We applied for the renewal of our licence in March this year. It was renewed with effect from November 1, 2016. It was a normal application and a normal renewal,” he said.
According to sources in the government, the FCRA registration of Greenpeace India, which was barred from receiving foreign funds as per the home ministry’s September 2, 2014 order on grounds of “prejudicially affecting public interest and economic interest” of the Indian state, was renewed in an apparent oversight by some junior officials of the ministry’s FCRA division.
Sources said the online application submitted by Greenpeace was “automatically renewed” along with at least two other organisations which were under FCRA scrutiny. These are Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), the NGO of controversial televangelist Zakir Naik that was recently declared an “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and Teesta Setalvad‘s NGO, Citizens for Justice & Peace (CJP). Both IRF and CJP were under prior permission list when a home ministry official, sometime in August this year, cleared their online applications for renewal of FCRA licence. The goof-up, sources said, happened as there is no provision in the FCRA software to automatically flag any pending inquiry or adverse intelligence report against the applicant NGO.
The renewal of Greenpeace’s and CJP’s FCRA registration for 5 more years technically means that they are no longer on “prior permission” list. “Technically, the two were taken off prior permission list the moment their licence to receive foreign funding was extended..Till this extension is made null and void, they can continue receiving foreign funding without any restriction,” said a senior government official.
While the IRF licence renewal made news headlines, thanks to a chance statement by its spokesperson confirming the same, what appeared to have escaped the MHA’s eye is that there were more such controversial NGOs whose FCRA registration “mistakenly” got renewed. In fact, it was only after November 1, 2016 that the renewal of Greenpeace and CJP’s licence is believed to have been noticed by the ministry.