Daily Mains Newsletter for UPSC 30 Dec 2021

Daily Mains Newsletter For
UPSC | RaghukulCS

30 Dec 2021 - Thursday

Index

Table of Contents

NGOs and Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act

Introduction

  • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) refused the application for renewal of FCRA registration of Missionaries of Charity (MoC), which was established in 1950 by Bharat Ratna Mother Teresa.
  • Last year, during the pandemic, the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010 was amended to put fresh restrictions on both NGO’s funding and functioning.
  • FCRA registration is mandatory for any NGO or association to receive foreign funds or donations.

Why did the Center refuse to renew the registration of FCRA for MoC?

  • ‘Audit irregularities’ in MoC:
  • According to MHA, there were also adverse inputs related to land purchase and ownership of vehicles.
  • Alleged child trafficking:
  • The NCPCR had approached the Supreme Court in 2020 seeking a court-monitored special investigation team probe into alleged child trafficking by the staff of MoC in Jharkhand.
  • Alleged religious conversions:
  • Earlier this month, an FIR has been filed against one of MoC’s children’s homes in Vadodara following allegations of religious conversions by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs said it has refused to renew the Foreigners Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of Missionaries of Charity (MoC) as “some adverse inputs were noticed.”

What are the previous such instances?

  • The registration of the international NGO Greenpeace was canceled 5 years ago.
  • Earlier the government has moved to restrict the funding for a group of 10 American, Australian, and European NGOs dealing with issues related to the environment, climate change, and child labor.
  • Last year, Amnesty International exited India as its finances were suspended.
  • According to the MHA, between 2016 and 2020, the government canceled the FCRA licenses of more than 6,600 NGOs and suspended those of about 264.

What is the Foreigners Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)?

  • It is an act of Parliament enacted in 1976 and amended in 2010.
  • The objective is to regulate foreign donations and to ensure that such contributions do not adversely affect internal security.
  • Coverage:
  • It is applicable to all associations, groups, and NGOs which intend to receive foreign donations.
  • Registration:
  • It is mandatory for all such NGOsto register themselves under the FCRA.
  • The registration is initially valid for five years.
  • The registration can be renewed subsequently if they comply with all norms.
  • Registered NGOs can receive foreign contributions for five purposes
  • Social
  • Educational
  • Religious
  • Economic
  • Cultural

About the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment), Act 2020

The salient features of the amendment include,
  • Transfer of foreign contribution:
  • Under the Act, foreign contributions cannot be transferred to any other person unless such person is also registered for that purpose.
  • The amendment also forbids sub-granting by NGOs to smaller NGOs who work at the grassroots.
  • Single FCRA account:
  • The act states that foreign contributions must be received only in an FCRA account opened in the State Bank of India, New Delhi Branch.
  • No funds other than the foreign contribution should be received or deposited in this account.
  • Regulation:
  • The Act states that a person may accept foreign contributions if
  • They have obtained a certificate of registration from the central government or
  • They have taken prior permission from the government to accept foreign contributions.  
  • Aadhaar usage:
  • The act makes it compulsory for all trustees to register their Aadhaar card with the FCRA account.
  • The Act decreases administrative expenses through foreign funds by an organization to 20% from 50% earlier.

What are the challenges associated with the recent amendment?

  • Over-regulation of NGOs
  • Against Constitutional rights
  • Discourage social work
  • Incompatible with international laws
  • Against Indian cultural ethos: new rules do not go well with India’s legitimate ambitions to be a global player.
  • An additional cost of compliance:
  • Every FCRA-registered NGO will have to open an FCRA-marked bank account with a designated branch of the State Bank of India in New Delhi.
  • Around 93% of FCRA NGOs are registered outside Delhi, and they now have to open a bank account in the capital.

What are the concerns associated with revoking the FCRA registration?

  • Non-Achievement of SDGs and reduction in Foreign Aid/ Donations for India,
  • An increase in compliance cost will result in a reduction in entire Social Sector activities in India,
  • impact on the livelihood of workers associated with NGOs,
  • Violation of Art 19 (1)which respects and protects the rights to freedom of association, expression, and freedom of assembly.

What should be done?

  • The government should adopt a liberal stance towards NGOs because NGOs can be provided with
  • Additional grace periods to file papers or other documents, 
  • The nature of misuse must be completely clear because “Adverse inputs” do not constitute activities “detrimental to the national interest”.
  • The state governments should set up an NGO coordination centerat the local level as recommended by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
  • The government must commit itself to the ancient Indian ethos of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ as the framework for its global engagement.
  • NGOs are helpful in implementing government schemes at the grassroots.
  • They fill the gaps, from food to education, the service of NGOs remains invaluable in a country where the state isn’t always there for everyone.
  • The government should be mindful before restricting the funds for important services or axing a global supply chain when they serve the neediest.

An opportunity for Digital India

  • India is pioneering the concept of digital public goods that enhance the ease, transparency, and speed with which individuals, markets, and governments interact with each other.
  • There is an opportunity for India to embark on digital diplomacy — to take its made-in-India digital public goods to hundreds of emerging economies across the world. This could be a strategic and effective counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • But India needs to bring transformation in its technological, startup, and innovation ecosystem.

Advantage of the Digital Public Goods

  • Cheaper and Effective Usage:
    • The investments required for transporting digital public goods are minuscule in comparison and there is no chance of a debt trap. Also, the code(platform) is highly reusable.
  • Instant Visible Outcomes: 
  • Unlike physical infrastructures such as ports and roads, digital public goods have short gestation periods and immediate, and visible impact and benefits.
  • Processes get streamlined and wait times for any service come down dramatically. Issuances of passports, PAN cards, and driving licenses are such examples.
  • Plugs the Leakage: 
  • Digital infrastructure plugs leaks.
  • It eliminates ghost beneficiaries of government services, removes touts collecting rent, creates an audit trail, makes the individual-government-market interface transparent, and provides efficiencies that help recoup the investments quickly.
    • Productivity goes up and services can be scaled quickly.
    • Benefits can be rapidly extended to cover a much larger portion of the population.
  • The Compounding with Digital Public Goods Infrastructure happens for two reasons.
    • Chips keep becoming faster, engines more powerful, and technology keeps improving.
    • As more and more people use the same technology, the number of “transactions” using that technology increases exponentially for example Facebook posts or UPI transactions.

Challenges With India’s Digital Ecosystem

  • Privacy Issues with Digital Public Goods
  • Increase in Inequalities:
    • Undertaking large-scale digitization of services without bridging these digital divides i.e., digital literacy, education, etc. could result in increasing existing inequalities.
  • Security Issues: 
  • There is a cybersecurity challenge in ensuring end-to-end protection of data throughout the whole ecosystem.
  • The alleged breach of the Aadhar database is a case in point.
  • Unserved Remote Areas: 
  • With digital services not being uniformly distributed, communities in remote areas often require on-ground staff to deploy and supplement digital tools.

Way Forward

  • Addressing Privacy Issues:
  • Designing privacy-protection and secure databases are critical so regulations governing any digital initiative must take into account provisions of the personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.
  • Ensuring Inclusivity:
  • Digital ecosystems should be guided by factors of availability, accessibility, affordability, value, and trust.
  • Ensuring Transparency
  • Citizen-Centric Design of Digital Public Goods

Conclusion

  • Emerging economies are characterized by gross inefficiencies in the delivery of government services. Digital public goods spread speed, transparency, ease, and productivity across the individual-government-market ecosystem and enhance inclusivity, equity, and development at scale.
  • India’s digital diplomacy can take made-in-India digital public goods across the world and boost India’s brand positioning as a leading technology player in the digital age.
  • It will also enable quick, visible, and compounding benefits for India’s partner countries and it will help create a strong foothold for India globally to counter the Belt and Road Initiative of China.

Ethics | Paper - IV

Normative Ethics: 

  • It is the study of ethical action.
  • It includes the formulation of moral rules that have direct implications for what human actions, institutions, and ways of life should be like.
  • It investigates the set of questions that arise when considering how one ought to act, morally speaking.
  • For example, The Golden Rule: We should do to others what we would want others to do to us.

 Applied Ethics:

  • Applied ethics is a branch of ethics devoted to the treatment of moral problems, practices, and policies in personal life, professions, technology, and government.
  • It is ethics with respect to real-world actions and their moral considerations in the areas of private and public life, the professions, health, technology, law, and leadership.
  • It is the philosophical examination from a moral standpoint, of particular issues in private and public life that are matters of moral judgment.
  • For example, the bioethics community is concerned with identifying the correct approach to moral issues in the life sciences, such as euthanasia, or the use of human embryos in research.

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