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FCRA Bill 2006

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Status of FCRA Bill of 2006 Growing threat to the internal security and quantum jump in the foreign contribution were some of the reasons cited by the Home Ministry in the year 2004 when it decided to amend the existing Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 1976. The Ministry was of the opinion that this large sum of money coming through foreign sources should not fall into wrong hands i.e. those who are working against the interest of the country. The ministry later organised a consultation in
    Status of FCRA Bill of 2006 Growing threat to the internal security and quantum jump in the foreign contributionwere some of the reasons cited by the Home Ministry in the year 2004 when it decided toamend the existing Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 1976. The Ministry was of theopinion that this large sum of money coming through foreign sources should not fall intowrong hands i.e. those who are working against the interest of the country. The ministrylater organised a consultation in June 2005 to discuss the proposed amendments in lightof the existing scenario.The amendments proposed by the Ministry were later referred to the cabinet. Fortunatelythe cabinet felt the need to have a wider debate on the bill and further referred it to theGroup of Ministers (GoM), consisting of heavyweights such as Shri. Sharad Pawar, Shri.Shivraj Patil, Shri. Arjun Singh, Smt. Meera Kumar, Shri. Hansraj Bharadwaj, Shri. PRKindia and a representative from the Planning Commission.On June 24 and 25 (2005), Ministry of Home Affairs and The Institute of CharteredAccountants organised first ever seminar on FCRA, 1976. The Seminar appeared to be acurtain raiser on FCMC Bill, 2005. In the seminar Dr. Rajesh Tandon, ChairpersonVANI, emphatically expressed the concerns of NGOs and appealed to the government tobe equally liberal with the NGOs and facilitate their smooth functioning. Mr. VijayMahajan, CEO, BASIX in his deliberations seconded Dr. Tandon and explained thepractical problems NGOs face due to cumbersome FCRA provisions. Hon’ble FinanceMinister applauded the kind of work NGOs are doing and appealed for their support. Theseminar was on the issue of FCRA that concerns the NGOs. But the very fact that itincluded only two speakers from the sector shows the diminutive respect shown by theorganisers.After hearing from the ministry of home officials that the government has referred thematter to a GoM which will look into the issues, repeal the existing FCRA Act and bringout another Act that will be known as Foreign Contribution Management and Control Act(FCMC), VANI approached all concerned stakeholders including parliamentarians,media, think-tanks, foundations, religious and minority communities, inter-governmentalorganizations etc to impress upon the government about the need to have aninstitutionalized dialogue with the voluntary sector in the process of making the law.In the meantime the process to evolve a policy on voluntary sector was under way. Thewhole policy on the sector was being facilitated by the Planning Commission and writtenby the voluntary sector representatives. It was suggested that as the policy on thevoluntary sector is underway and a result the sector should first have a policy on thesector and later on FCRA. This has also been the position of the Planning Commission allthrough. Four task forces constituted to frame the national policy were put in place andnow the policy is at the advanced stage of finalization.  Meanwhile on behalf of the civil society, VANI continued meeting ICAI and HighCommissioners of various Embassies’ advocating for complete withdrawal of some of the proposed draconian amendments in the said Bill. National Human RightsCommission, NRI and various associations like – FICCI, CII, Assocham were alsocontacted. Think tanks of various universities, organisations like Center for Policyresearch, Common Wealth Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, NHRC and seniorbureaucrats were also contacted to talk to the ministry officials and the governmentregarding the issue and they all supported us in terms of taking the issue at the highestlevels.VANI also mobilized its state partners to launch active advocacy campaign nation wide.Parliamentarians were also approached in order to gather their support. A total of 37meetings took place and state networks and organizations also wrote to the ministry. Inresponse to a question raised by an M.P from Maharashtra on the floor of the house, theminister of state for home admitted getting about 700 representations from variousvoluntary associations and the ministry was looking into each one of those. He alsoassured the house that every care will be taken to capture the sentiments of the sector andthen only a law will be enacted.Amidst all this, ministry of home affairs prepared a Cabinet note for passing Ordnance onFCMC. However, the Cabinet after considering all the pros and cons decided to scuttlethe move of MHA for Ordnance. Every action taken by the ministry was justified in thename of security. VANI’s efforts also proved fruitful as it could act in time and theOrdnance was scuttled on legal grounds as the move was made after the dates for theParliament session had been announced by the government.Due to our consistent efforts, the government decided to drop FCMC and agreed toamend the existing FCRA. This was disclosed by the then joint secretary (foreigner)during his address to VANI members during our national convention that took placeduring 28-29 the August, 2006.Meanwhile, the winter session of the Parliament was approaching (22 Nov – 19 Dec2007). On 16 December 2006 it was learnt that the FCR Bill was likely to be introducedin the parliament in the winter session itself. When this news was confirmed, VANI didthe appropriate advocacy and lobbying and the process gathered heat. Parliamentarianswere contacted and convinced that the FCRA Bill, if introduced and passed, will bedifficult for the voluntary sector. After a high drama advocacy, it was decided that theBill should be referred to the standing committee after it is introduced in the Rajya Sabha.It may be noted that FCRA bill is amongst a few bills that was introduced in RajyaSabha. A department related Parliamentary Standing Committee has been set up withSmt. Sushma Swaraj as its chairperson and 30 M.P’s from both the houses of parliament. (A list of the Parliamentary Standing Committee members is enclosed as Annexure–I). The standing committee will look into the issues, consult the stakeholders, prepare itsreport and submit to the cabinet for their consideration. Once the cabinet clears it, thesame will go to the parliament for final passage of the bill. Before the bill becomes anact, it will need President’s approval. As such, the process is expected to take about 10  months and senior observers in the government opine that the bill should be ready by thenext winter session of Parliament that usually takes places during last week of Novemberto third week of December.VANI in the meantime also facilitated signing of a petition by fifty leading civil societyrepresentatives and sent the same both to the Prime Minister and to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi on18 December 2006, listing the concerns of the voluntary sector arising out of theproposed FCRA bill of 2006.Following our intense advocacy, VANI representatives were invited by the Hon’bleunion minister of home affairs Shri. Shivraj Patil to share our concerns with him. A smalldelegation of VANI working committee met with the Home Minister Shri Shivraj Patilon 9 January 2007 to share the concerns of the civil society. Later a meeting was held atVANI’s office on 13 January 2007 to discuss the FCR Bill and develop plan of action. Inthe meeting it was decided that a critique of the Bill as well as section wise analysis of itshould be submitted to the Home Minister. The Hon'ble minister was sympathetic to ourconcerns and advised us to send a memorandum on issues that the sector is notcomfortable with. He also assured the VANI delegation that VANI will be invited tomake a physical deposition on FCRA before the Parliamentary Standing Committee oncethe process of doing so goes underway.On 18 January 2007, a meeting was called by the Joint Women’s Programme at All IndiaWomen’s Conference to discuss the provisions of the FCR Bill 2006 and plan of action.The group was briefed about the history and provisions of the bill by the CEO – VANI. Itwas decided that a meeting at a wider scale will be organised in the last week of Februaryto discuss the future course of action. Networking and lobbying at a much larger scalewas suggested during the course of the discussion.In the meantime, we also have written to our members to start holding meetings in theirregion, area and locality to sensitise the local FCRA registered associations about thedevelopments on the FCRA and provide their feedback to VANI as soon as possible.Meetings in U.P, Maharasthra, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Tamil Naidu have already startingtaking place. States in the North east and Goa are also holding the meetings on FCRA.We also request our members from their concerned locations to also contact their localM.Ps and advocate the FCRA issue with them. This will help us build a fair deal of negotiating space from different parts of the country. Policy process: How it moves and happens 1.   The issue/s are decided and taken up by the concerned ministry and considered bya core committee.2.   Recommendations of the core committee are sent to the Cabinet for itsconsideration3.   Cabinet may refer the matter to the Group of Ministers (GoM) for its consideredopinion and advice.  4.   GoM after considering the matter in detail (including consideration of the issue byconcerned ministries and departments), sends the same to Cabinet.5.   Cabinet considers the matters and presents before the parliament.6.   The process may go through either the lower house or upper one and has to passthrough a three tier stage – introduction, consideration and passage. Many a times,three processes take place at one go.7.   When the matter does not go through all of the above process may get referred tothe Parliamentary Standing Committee for more considered approach. Thisstanding committee has a chairperson and M.Ps from both the lower house andupper house. The committee considers various aspects related to the matter,invites suggestations and recommendations both in writing and also inviting aselect group of organizations to depose and finally puts its note to the cabinet.8.   The Cabinet once again considers the same and being satisfied send the matter tothe Parliament again for its passage.9.   Once passed, the matter awaits the approval of the President and becomes an Act.10.   The Act may still be challenged in court of law.
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