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25th October Current Affairs

FCRA and NGO

(GS-II: Governance)

In News:

Recently, The Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) licence of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) and Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT) for alleged violations of the provisions of the Act.

Details:

The NGOs came under the scanner in July 2020 over the possible violations of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Income Tax Act and the FCRA.

What is the FCRA?

The “Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act” (FCRA) regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect internal security.

First enacted in 1976, it was amended in 2010 in which a slew of new measures was adopted to regulate foreign donations.

The FCRA act is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Under the new rules notified by MHA in 2015, NGOs are required to give an undertaking that the acceptance of foreign funds is not likely to prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India or impact friendly relations with any foreign state and does not disrupt communal harmony.

Applicability:

The FCRA is applicable to all associations, groups and NGOs which intend to receive foreign donations. It is mandatory for all such NGOs to register themselves under the FCRA.

Provisions of the Act:

The FCRA requires every person or NGO wishing to receive foreign donations to be registered under the Act.

To open a bank account for the receipt of foreign funds in State Bank of India, Delhi is mandatory.

These funds can be utilised only for the purpose for which they have been received, and as stipulated in the Act.

The receivers of foreign funds are also required to file annual returns, and they must not transfer the funds to another NGO.

Who Cannot Receive Foreign Contributions?

The Act prohibits the receipt of foreign funds by:

  • Candidates for elections,
  • Journalists or newspaper and media broadcast companies,
  • Judges and government servants,
  • Members of the legislature and political parties or their office-bearers, and
  • Organisations of a political nature.

Registration under FCRA:

FCRA registrations are granted to individuals or associations that have definite cultural, economic, educational, religious, and social programmes.

MHA makes inquiries through the Intelligence Bureau into the antecedents of the applicant and accordingly processes the application.

The MHA is required to approve or reject the application within 90 days — failing which it is expected to inform the NGO of the reasons for the same.

Once granted, FCRA registration is valid for five years.

NGOs are expected to apply for renewal within six months of the date of expiry of registration. In case of failure to apply for renewal, the registration is deemed to have expired.

When is a registration suspended or cancelled?

The government reserves the right to cancel the FCRA registration of any NGO if it finds it to be in violation of the Act.

Registration can be cancelled for a range of reasons including, if “in the opinion of the Central Government, it is necessary for the public interest to cancel the certificate”.

Once the registration of an NGO is cancelled, it is not eligible for re-registration for three years.

Bhoota Kola

In News:

The practice has come into the limelight due to the recent, Kantara movie.

What is Bhoota Kola?

It is an annual ritual performance where local spirits or deities are worshipped.

It is believed that a person performing the ritual has temporarily become a god himself.

This performer is both feared and respected in the community and is believed to give answers to people’s problems, on behalf of god.

There are several ‘Bhootas’ who are worshipped in the Tulu-speaking belt of Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi districts.

It is usually performed in small local communities and rural areas.

It has influenced Yakshagana folk theatre.

Drums and music give company to the dancing and pooja rituals.

What is this movie about?

The fictional story shown in the movie is inspired by the relationship shared between forests and their residents and takes place over almost two centuries.

SC directions on hate speech

In News:

Recently Supreme court has directed the police chiefs of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to take “immediate” suo motu action against any hate speech by lodging criminal cases without waiting for formal complaints.

What is Hate Speech?

Hate speech is an incitement to hatred against a particular group of persons marginalized by their religious belief, sexual orientation, gender, and so on.

The Law Commission, in its 267th report on hate speech, said such utterances have the potential to provoke individuals and society to commit acts of terrorism, genocide, and ethnic cleansing.

Laws on hate speech in India:

India does not have a formal legal framework for dealing with hate speech, a set of provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), loosely defining hate speech, are invoked.

Section 295 of IPC: – it defines and prescribes punishment for deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

Origin: it was brought in 1927 (Rangila Rasool case). Its antecedent lies in the “communally charged atmosphere of North India in the 1920s.

Section 298 IPC penalises ‘uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person.

Section 153A IPC penalises ‘promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony’.

Section 66A of the IT Act: – punishes sending offensive messages through communication services is added when such speech is made online.

Part VII of the Representation of People Act, 1951 classifies hate speech as an offence committed during elections into two categories: corrupt practices and electoral offences.

Supreme court rulings on 295A:

Ramji Lal Modi v State of Uttar Pradesh (1957): – Supreme Court upheld the law on the grounds that it was brought in to preserve “public order”.

Public order is an exemption to the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to religion recognised by the Constitution.

Baba Khalil Ahmed v State of Uttar Pradesh (1960): – the Supreme Court said that the “malicious intent” of the accused can be determined not just from the speech in question but also from external sources.

Baragur Ramachandrappa v State of Karnataka, (2007 ): – The SC adopting a pragmatic approach ordered that public order supersedes the individual interest of free speech.

Basmati Rice

In News:

Five new varieties of seeds of Basmati rice, developed by a group of Indian scientists are all set to bring revolutionary changes in the way Basmati rice is cultivated in the country.

Highlights:

Three of the five varieties can resist two common diseases of paddy (one bacterial and one fungal).

The other two varieties can save 35% of water as the method of Direct Sowing of Rice (DSR) can be used to raise them.

These two seeds are resistant to herbicides too, helping the farmers control weeds more efficiently.

Basmati rice production in India:

India is known for its Basmati rice, with seven States — Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand — earmarked for geographical indication (GI).

Basmati, known for its mouthfeel, aroma, and length of the grain when cooked and tasted, has a market abroad and brings about ₹30,000 crores in foreign exchange every year.

While 75% of the export is to West Asian countries, European Union countries also import Indian Basmati.

However, recently, the export to EU countries faced certain hurdles due to the increase in the pesticide residue levels in the rice from India.