India restricts US charity Ford Foundation's funding

India restricts US charity Ford Foundation's funding

NEW DELHI - India has cracked down on the Ford Foundation, saying the US charity can no longer give money to local organisations without government permission, the latest move against a foreign NGO, an official said Friday.

A home ministry order says the foundation has been placed on a "watch list" to ensure funds are used for "bonafide welfare activities without compromising on concerns of national interest and security".

The move follows a complaint from the western Gujarat government over the foundation's grants to a local non-governmental organisation run by a long-time critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Gujarat has accused the foundation of "interfering in the internal affairs" of the country and also "abetting communal disharmony" through funding of the local rights organisation called Sabrang.

Home ministry spokesman K.S Dhatwalia said the foundation had been involved in funding charities which are not registered to receive foreign funds.

"All funds have to be vetoed by the ministry", Dhatwalia told AFP.

The move comes after the government suspended Greenpeace India's foreign funding licence this month after accusing the watchdog of hurting the country's economic interests.

Greenpeace accuses the government of trying to shut it down over its campaigns against mining and nuclear projects.

The foundation, created in 1936 by Edsel and Henry Ford, has made several grants to Sabrang, run by Teesta Setalvad who has criticised Modi over religious riots in Gujarat in 2002 when he was chief minister.

Modi has long denied any wrongdoing over the riots which left more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead.

Gujarat has targeted activist Setalvad for investigation including over allegations that she embezzled donations meant for riot victims.

The New York-based Ford Foundation said it was cooperating with a home ministry investigation into its grants but was confident it had complied with Indian laws.

"If the government suggests methods by which we can strengthen and improve our grant-making processes, we will take appropriate steps to incorporate them," it said in a statement.

Human rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves said the move against the foundation "strikes me as nothing more than a witchhunt".

"Those who are doing work in the nation's interests (through environmental and human rights work), they are being treated as people who cheat India," he told the NDTV network.

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