Indian public health group loses permit for foreign funds

Centre Cancels FCRA Licence of NGO Linked to Gates Foundation

Delhi-based voluntary organisation Public Health Foundation of India or PHFI has been barred from receiving foreign funds in India by the Home Ministry, which acts as nodal authority to regulate foreign aid for Non-Government Organisations. Moreover, it has also been alleged that PHFI had also opened bank accounts which the ministry was not aware of. The Home Ministry said that the license has been canceled because there has been misuse of funds received from foreign donors. Of these, the FCRA licenses of over 9,500 NGOs were cancelled in 2015.

The action against the PHFI was taken after the ministry received reports suggesting that the institution had allegedly violated FCRA provisions by "diverting" foreign funds for purposes other than intended, officials said. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation accounted for almost one-third of its foreign funding, USAID for around 10%, while the remaining donors included some leading western pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline. The officer added that an NGO was not permitted to lobby for tobacco control, which could only be done by an entity as a public relations company that must pay due taxes.

PHFI, in a release issued on Wednesday, said it had received a notification from the home ministry regarding the renewal of its FCRA registration.

The ministry had specifically asked the group to explain their spending on HIV/AIDS and tobacco programs. The NGO aimed to strengthen training, research and policy development in public health and was launched in 2006 by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and provided assistance to Central and State Governments in several areas ranging from HIV prevention, access to drugs, tobacco control etc.

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According to an Indian Express report, PHFI was served a home ministry notice for violation of FCRA norms in carrying out its advocacy work against tobacco.

The spokesperson also said that PHFI has submitted requisite information and documents to MHA on the observations highlighted in the notification and has already provided the needed clarification.

Meanwhile, PHFI chief K Srinath Reddy told news agency PTI that the NGO has got in touch with the ministry on the issue with a request for early resolution of the matter.

According to the PHFI website, they include Infosys Foundation, HT Parekh Foundation, HCL Corporation, Rohini Nilekani, Reliance Industries, GMR Projects Pvt. Ltd.

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