Introduction

Normally reticent and mild mannered Manmohan Singh in an interview to Science magazine during February mentioned that American NGO’s are funding the protests against Kudankulam nuclear plant. He also blamed protests against genetically modified crops on groups which were funded from the US and Scandinavian countries.

He said that “they are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces” . This is a major revelation coming from the PM and unfortunately our media which is frenzy or agenda driven has not fully comprehended the dimensions of the issues raised by our PM. Let us understand the nature of the threat posed by these NGOs or WMD’s –Weapons of Mass Destruction – to our republic and the need to stem the rot here and now.

Among the largest members of the Indian economy is the NGO sector or what is known as the Third Sector or Civil Society (other than government and private) in academic circles.

Two important criteria are that they should be independent from government and organizations not meant for making profit. But many get money from the government or from foreign governments. The type of activities they are involved is mind-boggling which can extent from “aging issues” to “corruption” to “human rights” to “waste management”. Many of them call themselves “Civil Society” and involve in socio-political activities even though they do not directly participate in the electoral process. Many are Church-related organization and others involve in human rights issues as a civil society organization. The funding for many of these civil society groups is substantially international.

Before we proceed let us look at some numbers.

The international flow of funds is regulated by the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act [FCRA Act] of the Central Government which the ministry of home affairs has re-formulated now. In the period from 2001 to 2010 [ 9 years] such organizations received more than Rs 70000 crore and in the year 2009-10 [of which data is available] it was Rs 10338 crore

Salient Features for the year 2009-2010 [ year for which latest data is available]

Its salient features are as below:

I. A total of 38436 Associations have been registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act up to 31.3.2010. During the year 2009-10, 2022 Associations were granted registration and 388 Associations were granted prior permission to receive foreign contribution.

II. 21508 Associations reported a total receipt of an amount of Rs.10, 337.59 crore as foreign contribution.

III. Among the States and the Union Territories, the highest receipt of foreign contribution was reported by Delhi (Rs. 1815.91 crore), followed by Tamil Nadu (Rs. 1663.31 crore) and Andhra Pradesh (Rs. 1324.87 crore).

IV. Among the districts, the highest receipt of foreign contribution was reported by Chennai (Rs. 871.60 crore), followed by Bengaluru (Rs. 702.43 crore) and Mumbai (Rs. 606.63 crore).

V. The list of donor countries is headed by the USA (Rs. 3105.73 crore) followed by Germany (Rs. 1046.30 crore) and UK (Rs. 1038.68 crore).

VI The list of foreign donors is topped by the Gospel For Asia Inc, USA (Rs. 232.71 crore) followed by the Fundacion Vicente Ferrer, Barcelona, Spain (Rs.228.60 crore) and the World Vision Global Centre, USA (Rs.197.62 crore).

VII. Among the Associations which reported receipt of foreign contribution, the highest amount of foreign contribution was received by the World Vision of India, Chennai, Tamil Nadu (Rs.208.94 crore), followed by the Rural Development Trust, Ananthapur, A.P. (Rs.151.31 crore) and Shri Sevasubramania Nadar Educational Charitable Trust, Chennai, T.N. (Rs. 94.28 crore).

VIII The highest amount of foreign contribution was received and utilized for Establishment Expenses (Rs. 1482.58 crore), followed by Rural Development (Rs. 944.30 crore), Welfare of Children (Rs. 742.42 crore), Construction and Maintenance of school/college (Rs.630.78 crore) and Grant of Stipend/scholarship/assistance in cash and kind to poor/deserving children (Rs. 454.70 crore).

(We have provided some salient statistics from the Home ministry web site in Tables 1 to 5- See Appendix)

 Some important observations.

Establishment expenses consist of buying land, buildings, jeeps, setting up offices, mobiles, laptops, cameras, salaries, consultancy fees, honorarium, and foreign travel etc., constituting nearly 50 % of the expenses and in some cases as high as 70%. This goes against the grain of service motto where the ultimate recipient is supposed to get the maximum. Now, such organizations even recruit “executives” from management institutions. Most of the top recipients are Church or Church related organizations. They use the funds for service as well as religious purposes.

However, they are not covered by Right to Information Act as they are not part of Government. For instance, this writer has tried unsuccessfully to get the annual accounts from the web site of the top 25 recipients, many of whom are often reported in newspapers and TV and stressing the importance of “transparency” in the functioning of the government. Many do not have any information on their web sites. Some of the web sites contain nothing on finances. These Civil society groups who day in day out harangue us on TV talk shows about transparency and disclosures for the government and corporate sector etc., should practice what they preach

There is a long list of illustrative programmes /activities to be carried out by these associations receiving foreign contributions. This is given in the Home Ministry web site.

More importantly the amended act suggests that acceptance of foreign contributions should be within the broad parameters as listed in the appendix 1

We have provided in Appendix 1 to 4 some salient aspects of the act including a paltry punishment for violating the act.

Issues

Nature of Use of Funds:

Significant portion of the received funds are used for ‘Establishment Expenses” which is against the basic cannon of charity work. It is expected that Charity involves lesser fixed assets creation particularly of the flamboyant nature. Also the jet setting aspect of the NGO’s provide clues to the nature of expenditure. Whether it is New York or Geneva we find members of Indian NGO community lobbying for some cause mostly of human rights. This creates a closed loop wherein they receive money to further some agenda and for that they receive more money

Religious Conversion:

Large amount of funds go to Christian organizations whose purpose is conversion. This act of “soul harvesting” or “planting of the Church” is an anachronistic practice of nineteenth century which is totally incongruous in the twenty first century where faith based political movements like the Church movements are disappearing from Europe their cradle of growth. Europe which has given up on the Church is trying to overcome its guilt by exporting Christianity to India. The recipient organizations may argue that they are serving poor but do they need European money to serve Indian poor.

Also some organizations like World Vision appear to be secular or non-denominational in India. But the fact of the matter is that is Christian in origin and membership. This has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of USA. We can take them as a representative example wherein they do not mention much about their exclusive Christian identity when campaigning for funds within India

To quote from their website

History of our Christian identity

World Vision was founded 60 years ago as a Christian humanitarian organization. Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, World Vision’s work with the poor and oppressed is a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people.

As a Christian organization, World Vision has virtually the same Statement of Faith included in its September 1950 articles of incorporation. While about 20 percent of our worldwide staff are of other faiths, all prospective staff at World Vision U.S. are required to sign that Statement of Faith or, as an alternative, the Apostles’ Creed.

Far from being narrow in scope, the Apostles’ Creed and World Vision’s Statement of Faith reflect the basic theological beliefs shared for millennia by the vast majority of orthodox Christian traditions — Roman Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Pentecostal, evangelical, or Orthodox.

Issues of the current court case

The issues at the center of the Spencer case — the plaintiffs’ denial of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ — are central to Christianity. By definition, a Christian believes that Jesus Christ is the only son of God. World Vision believes one can be a good person, a moral person — even a religious person — without believing this. But World Vision believes that one cannot be a Christian unless one can confess, as the Apostle Peter did in Matthew 16:16 (NIV), “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

To be clear, we hire Christians, imperfect and flawed, not because we think they are superior, but because we believe that any real success will come only through the presence of Christ in each employee’s heart and His power through prayer in each staff member’s mind and hands.

The plaintiffs in this case signed the Statement of Faith when they were hired, but later changed their core beliefs. It was only when these staff members stopped attending World Vision’s weekly chapel services and instead began alternative worship and study sessions at work that the change in their beliefs became obvious. We regret the departure of our former colleagues, and we pray they have been able to find areas of humanitarian service that are compatible with their new beliefs.

Hiring people of shared beliefs

World Vision believes that staff commitment to core Christian beliefs as we understand them from the Bible is essential for maintaining our Christian identity. Organizationally, our humanitarian work is done as a reflection of — and an extension of — our Christian faith. We represent Christ in our work.

Hiring people of shared belief is a common practice among charitable institutions, many of whom receive federal funding. A non-profit that advocates for animal rights, for example, would be unlikely to hire a hunter or a non-vegetarian. An environmental organization is unlikely to hire a global warming skeptic. Non-profit organizations are defined by their core mission and motivation. To hire those uncommitted to that mission would be to undermine the organization

Who we are and how we serve

World Vision has worked hard to be clear with our donors in our communication and transparent about our Christian identity. We do not want to take donations under false pretences.

Similarly, World Vision always identifies itself as a Christian organization in the communities where we serve, including many where there are few, if any, Christians. World Vision works in many countries where the majority of people follow another religion, including some areas where Christian teaching is not welcome. In all cases, we respect the local culture and abide by local laws.

World Vision is a signatory to the Red Cross Code of Conduct and does not proselytize. That is, we never require aid recipients to listen to a religious message as a condition of our help, nor do we use aid as an inducement for recipients to change religion. We also never discriminate on the basis of religion in giving aid; we serve every child in need that we possibly can, of any faith or

Our staff worldwide

More than 80 percent of World Vision’s 40,000 staff members worldwide are Christian.

We work in some countries where there are few Christians with the needed professional qualifications, and in some where it is illegal to hire only Christians. However, in each of the nearly 100 countries where World Vision works, our leadership is Christian.

Federal law

In the United States, nearly 50 years of federal law has guaranteed that faith-based organizations can consider religion in hiring staff. The 1964 Civil Rights Act explicitly allows religious preference in employment by any “religious association, corporation, educational institution or society.”

Similarly, Congress has never said that faith-based organizations lose their hiring rights if they receive federal grants. Neither have the courts. In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that religious hiring rights do not violate the Constitution’s ban on government preference for religion.

The above mentioned quote highlights the dubious role played by mainly religious organizations presenting themselves as social or secular organizations in our context but receiving massive funds for global Christian activities

Not only that, we also finds that the Government of India involves mainly Christian organizations for carrying out their social agenda about Aids or reducing TB. Lets take another instance.The Organizations that currently comprise the National TB Consortium India are the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA), Damien Foundation India Trust (DFIT), German Leprosy and TB Relief Association (GLRA), LEPRA Society, PATH India, Project Concern International (PCI) India, TB Alert India and World Vision India

We do not find Rama Krishna Mission or that of Amritanandamayi in these government funded endeavors

The power of the Converting Lobby

The planting of the cross [conversion] among the poorer and weaker segments creates social tensions. If a girl gets converted then her parents and siblings are impacted giving raise to family and social tensions. But if even SC points this out there is a furore and the court is asked to erase it from its records.

How much the power of the church and its lobbies has spread far and wide is illustrated by the Supreme Court altering the wordings in its judgment in the famous Dara Singh Case

In the supreme Court of India-Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction.Criminal appeal nb. 1366 of 2005 Rabindra Kumar Pal @ Dara Singh …. Appellant(s) Versus Republic of India…. Respondent(s) with Criminal appeal no: 1259 of 2007 And Criminal appeal nos: 1357-1365

Its original verdict, the apex court observed, “the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity. All these aspects have been correctly appreciated by the High Court, which modified the sentence of death into life imprisonment with which we concur”. This was later modified as, “more than 12 years have elapsed since the act was committed, we are of the opinion that the life sentence awarded by the High Court need not be enhanced in view of the factual position discussed in the earlier paras.”

Secondly, the sentence, “It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of use of force, provocation, conversion, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other” (the meaning of the constitutional principle of equality of faiths and non-discrimination in matters of religion) was replaced by “There is no justification for interfering in someone’s religious belief by any means”.

The facts are as follows: while upholding the life sentence on Dara Singh, main accused in the Staines murder case, Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chouhan observed that the murder had taken place in an atmosphere that had been poisoned by the conversion activism of foreign missionaries in that part of Orissa. They said in their judgment pronounced in open court:

 “It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of use of force, provocation, conversion, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other.”

However, our two Supreme Court judges, proved even more nimble-footed than what John Dayal and company had expected. The original judgement was pronounced on 21 Jan. (a Friday), and the cacophony orchestrated by the Christian lobby started straightaway, reaching a crescendo during the weekend and on the following Monday.

On 25 Jan. (Tuesday), Sathasivam and Chouhan re-opened the matter in open court and announced the deletions / changes. There are some reports that the counsels for the two parties (the State and Dara Singh) were given notice to attend, but this is not verifiable as yet. What is certain is that there was no application for a Review Petition or any other form of legal representation before the two judges, asking them to reconsider their observations already on record. It was a suo motu act by the two judges. Clearly, Dayal and his cohorts would have been delighted and overjoyed with the supersonic speed of the two judges and their commendable powers of foresight and anticipation.

What can possibly account for this change of mind and heart? Divine intervention, a hyperactive conscience? Impossible to pinpoint, for mere mortals. What happened was the observations quoted above (“It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in…) were deleted / expunged and replaced by the platitudinous and ambivalent sentence, “There is no justification for interfering in someone’s religious belief by any means.” This piece of pontification has no judicial import at all, either in the case under discussion or in general. All that can be said is that the somersault of this Bench in this case will be debated for quite some time.

The above mentioned example shows that the power of Church for converting religion has been made in to a major fundamental right and it is supported by Global funds. We would like to point out that the right to convert does not include the right to convert using foreign money.

We also find that from the point of funding as well as conversion activities the so called “New Age or Evangelical” or “born again Christians” are much more active compared to the traditional Catholic or Protestant churches of India. Of course this needs another article.

The following two tabs change content below.
Professor Vaidyanathan

Professor Vaidyanathan

The author is Professor of Finance and Control, Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, and can be contacted at vaidya@iimb.ernet.in. The views are personal and do not reflect that of his organization.
Professor Vaidyanathan

Latest posts by Professor Vaidyanathan (see all)