Oxfam India's Violations of Foreign Funds Act or Government's Targeting?

Oxfam India's Violations of Foreign Funds Act or Government's Targeting?

The Central Bureau of Investigation has been requested to investigate Oxfam India for alleged violations of the Foreign Funds Act, which prohibits foreign funds transfer to other organizations, even after the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act went into effect.

Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs say that Oxfam India attempted to evade the FCRA by transferring funds to other organizations or for-profit consulting firms, as revealed by emails discovered during an Income Tax Department investigation. However, some suggest that the investigation might be an attempt to silence Oxfam India's criticism of governmental policies.

According to sources, Oxfam India attempted to bypass the FCRA by transferring funds to other organizations or for-profit consulting firms, as revealed in emails discovered during a 2020 Income Tax Department investigation.

One such organization is the Center for Policy Research, a think tank whose FCRA license was cancelled by the Union Home Ministry in March 2021. This license suspension restricts foreign funding. The Center for Policy Research has been conducting studies on India's challenges since 1973.

The opposition Congress criticized the government's action, and the UK brought it up at a bilateral meeting.

According to sources, the money was allegedly transferred in the form of a commission to the Centre for Policy Research through its affiliates and employees. The non-TDS profit's data, which recorded a payment of 12,71,188 to the Centre for Policy Research in the 2019–20 fiscal year under Section 194J, also reflected this.

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According to sources, the IT study also "exposed" Oxfam India as a possible tool of the foreign policy of entities or foreign organizations, which has generously sponsored the organization over the years.

Instead of collecting foreign contributions in a designated FCRA account, Oxfam India got 1.50 crore in foreign funds directly into its FC usage account.

Following the FCRA license suspension in January of last year, Oxfam submitted a petition for revision to the home ministry.

How does the Center for Policy Research function?

  • The central government has revoked the Centre for Policy Research's Foreign Contribution Control Act license. Government policy is examined and researched by CPR, a nonprofit think tank.

  • The think tank's license was canceled, according to officials, “citing non-compliance with FCRA rules,” and “modalities are being worked out for CPR to utilize funds received in FCRA account.”

  • The Income Tax department conducted a "survey" in September last year at CPR's Delhi office. In a statement, the think tank claimed that it had "done nothing illegal."

  • The statement read, "CPR has all necessary approvals and sanctions, and is authorized by the government as a beneficiary under the Foreign Contribution Control Act. CPR is one of 24 research institutes of the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research network.

  • Since it was founded in 1973, CPR has conducted research on practically every subject imaginable. The tax "survey" in Delhi has startled a lot of people in the center, which, despite its columns criticizing the government, is still viewed as a "centrist" who engages with the government or its agencies often. The number of government contributors attests to this perception.

  • The Indian Council of Social Science Research, which is part of the union ministry of Education, supports 24 research institutions, including CPR. However, only about 12% of domestic funding is given to CPR for specific projects or goals, including those from ICSSR.

The funds and the projects

According to a report published by Newslaundry, Up till 2020–2021, CPR has received over 140 crores for both stated and unspecified projects. The proportion of domestic contributors was a pitiful Rs 14.54 crore, with approximately Rs 122 crore of this going towards specific projects or goals.

The income and expenditure accounts comprised the cash received for solely general uses, and these statements showed that CPR's spending for these five years was Rs 20.21 crore. Almost Rs 3 crore of the total Rs 4.28 crore spent in 2020–2021 was spent on salaries, making up the largest portion.

American citizens make up a large portion of the international category donors. They consist of the Ford Foundation, Namati, Omidyar Network Fund, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In the domestic category, the World Bank came out on top with Rs 2.11 crore, followed by Unicef with Rs 1.88 crore throughout the course of the five-year period. Yet, ICSSR's receipt portion was only 25.20 lakh rupees.

Besides multilateral organizations, other donors to CPR include the Meghalaya government, the Population Foundation of India, HDFC Ltd, Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation, Tata Trust, the fifteenth financial commission, federal ministries such as Jal Shakti, external affairs, and corporate affairs.

Why did CPR and OXFAM India become subject to the government’s adverse attention?

Oxfam India has now come under scrutiny and with that CPR is also being targeted by the authorities. Since the allegations are OXFAM India transferred foreign funding to the Centre for Policy Research.

There is been a pattern seen in the country under the current regime that one who opposes or criticizes the incumbent Modi government gets under scrutiny in some way or the other. That criticism can be in terms of surveys held by organizations quoting the discrepancies in the current regime or it can also be mere words spoken by an opposition leader or anybody in that matter. That’s exactly how the current government is operating.

Wealth Gap Expanding

The "Survival of the Richest: The India Supplement" by Oxfam India presents some startling data demonstrating that the wealth gap between the rich and the poor is really expanding. The study focuses on how India's progressive tax laws can lessen inequality there.

The documentary "Survival of the Richest" was released on the first day of the 2023 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, as a sobering reminder of the situation of poverty and inequality in India.

For the first time in 25 years, extreme riches and extreme poverty are increasing concurrently around the world, and elites are gathering in the Swiss ski resort.

Oxfam India has urged Modi Government to ensure that the "economy works for everyone and not just the lucky" in reference to the Modi government's slogan, "sabka saath, sabka vikas."

Key points from "Survival of the Richest: The India Supplement"

In 2021, the wealthiest 1% of Indians hold more than 40.5% of the country's wealth, compared to the 3% that would belong to the 700 million people who make up the bottom 50% of the population. More money than 700 million Indians are owned by the 21 richest billionaires in the nation.

Indian billionaires' wealth increased by 121% from the pandemic's start to November 2022, or INR 3,608 crore daily in real terms (around INR 2.5 crore every minute). While the number of hungry Indians has expanded from 19 crores to 35 crores, the wealthy have prospered for themselves.

The 350 million starving Indians who reportedly sleep on an empty stomach, according to an Oxfam survey, may not have seen the forest for the tree. 800 million Indians are currently unable to afford two meals per day.

Why a democracy like India, where ending poverty is the state's top priority and this leadership purports to be "anti-elite," has waited eight years to address the issue is perplexing.

The unemployment rate increased to the greatest level seen since the 1970s. Indicators indicating the situation is becoming worse include the fact that India is falling in the world hunger index and that demand for the Rural Employment Guarantee is rising. Honest debates regarding the state of our economy and the number of poor Indians must start now.

The Oxfam study serves as a stern reminder to the wealthy in India and throughout the world that the current inequality matrix cannot continue.

This billionaire boom, rather than being a sign of a booming economy, is a symptom of a failing economic system, according to Oxfam India’s report. CEO Nisha Agrawal as quoted by news agencies states, "People who labor hard to provide food for the nation, build infrastructure, and operate factories struggle to support their families, pay for their children's education, buy them medications, and manage two meals a day."

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