After it assumed power in 2014, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government had turned the heat on NGOs on matters of foreign funding and these were subjected to scrutiny. But now in a change of heart, the Government of India has withdrawn restrictions imposed on some of these NGOs. The move has been received warmly, especially by the United States that said the move would strengthen civil society in the country.
“We certainly would welcome and do welcome any actions by government that support and strengthen civil society. I’d refer you to the Government of India with respect to any specific actions that have been taken regarding the NGOs in India,” State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said.
“But we want to see a strong, healthy civil society throughout the world. And that certainly extends to India, which is a strong democracy,” he said.
“We believe that a strong and vibrant civil society only strengthens that democracy,” he added.
Toner said the US supports the very good work of many of these NGOs that they play in strengthening civil society. But it is for the Government of India to work with them with regard to taxes and other regulations that the NGOs need to comply with on ground.
“We are very clear not just with respect to India, but with many countries around the world, about our support for NGOs and the important role that they play in any democratic society. And in so far as we push for a more welcoming environment for these NGOs to work in, that’s just the way we work,” the deputy spokesman said.
It may be recalled that according to media reports in 2015, the government had turned the heat on the NGOs with the de-licensing of around 4,470 NGOs in India, in addition to the 8,875 NGOs whose licenses were revoked in April for violation of rules governing foreign funds, the Government of India seems to have set in motion a process that it began by targeting Greenpeace and Ford Foundation. This had sparked off a raging debate as to what the Narendra Modi government’s stance was towards the NGOs.