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27th January Current Affairs

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 Registation for NGOs

(GS-II: Role of NGOs)

In News:

The Supreme Court has asked 6,000-odd NGOs to go back to the government for redressal of their grievances on non-renewal of their Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration.

Details:

A petition was filed in the court asking the NGOs to be allowed to continue receiving and utilising foreign funds until the pandemic is over.

Please note:

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act registration is mandatory for any NGO or association to receive foreign funds or donations.

Background:

The registration of thousands of NGOs was up for renewal in 2020-21. The Ministry had declined to renew the FCRA registration of 179 NGOs, while 5,789 associations did not apply for a renewal before the December 31 deadline.

After the exercise, the number of active FCRA-registered NGOs is down from 22,762 to 16,907.

On what basis is approval 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 if an inquiry finds a false statement in the application; if the NGO is found to have violated any of the terms and conditions of the certificate or renewal; if it has not been engaged in any reasonable activity in its chosen field for the benefit of society for two consecutive years; or if it has become defunct.

It can also be cancelled if “in the opinion of the Central Government, it is necessary in the public interest to cancel the certificate”, the FCRA says.

Registrations are also cancelled when an audit finds irregularities in the finances of an NGO in terms of misutilisation of foreign funds.

How FCRA regulates NGO funding?

FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect the internal security of the country.

The Act, first enacted in 1976 was amended in the year 2010 and then 2020.

Section 5 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 gives the Union government “unchecked and unbridled powers” to declare an organisation as being one of political nature and deny it access to funds from sources abroad.

FCRA is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Applicability:

The provisions of the Act apply to the territory of India, to citizens of India who may be outside India and to companies or their branches outside India that are registered or incorporated in India.

The entities covered by the Act include an individual, a Hindu undivided family, an association, or a registered company.

For how long is approval granted?

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, and the NGO is no longer entitled to receive foreign funds or utilise its existing funds without permission from the ministry.

Prior Reference Category under the Act:

It implies that to donate to such an NGO, a foreign donor has to take prior clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Latest 2020 amendments and criticisms associated:

The amendments mandated that registered NGOs open a designated account in the main branch of the State Bank of India in the Capital in which the foreign contributions to their various causes would exclusively land.

The petitioners have argued that this measure would be cumbersome for NGOs operating in rural India and far away from the Capital.

What Is A Foreign Contribution Under FCRA?

“Foreign contribution” under FCRA covers any “donation, delivery or transfer made by any foreign source of any article” as long as it is not given as a gift for personal use, or if its market value in India at the time it was made is “not more than such sum as may be specified from time to time by the Central government”.

Exceptions:

Any currency, or security can fall under the ambit of the Act though it excludes any money received “by way of fee or towards cost in lieu of goods or services rendered by such person in the ordinary course of his business, trade or commerce whether within India or outside India”.

Neither are donations made by Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) considered to be “foreign contribution” although a donation from a person of Indian origin who has assumed foreign nationality is treated as as “foreign contribution”.

Who Cannot Receive Foreign Contribution?

A host of entities are barred from receiving foreign funds, including election candidates, those connected with a registered newspaper, judges, government servants or employees of any entity controlled or owned by the government and members of any legislature. Political parties and their office bearers, too, are prohibited from receiving foreign funds.

ISRO’s new SSLV programme

(GS-III: Awareness in space)

In News:

ISRO’s indigenous new launch rockets, called the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), is likely to have its much-delayed, maiden development flight this April.

Details:

New ISRO Chairman Somanath himself is credited with the design and development of the SSLV during his time as director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram since 2018.

What is SSLV?

The SSLV is intended to cater to a market for the launch of small satellites into low earth orbits.

It can carry satellites weighing up to 500 kg to a low earth orbit.

The SSLV is the smallest vehicle at 110-ton mass at ISRO.

It will take only 72 hours to integrate. Only six people will be required to do the job.

The cost will be only around Rs 30 crore.

It is best suited for launching multiple microsatellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs.

Need for?

Launch of small satellites into low earth orbits has become significant in recent years on account of the need for developing countries, private corporations, and universities for small satellites.

About 15 to 20 SSLVs would be required every year to meet the national demand alone.

What is PSLV?

The launch of small satellites has until now been dependent on ‘piggy-back’ rides with big satellite launches on ISRO’s work-horse – the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle which has had over 50 successful launches so far.

PSLV can launch satellites weighing in the range of 1000 kg. But, it takes 70 days to integrate this launch vehicle.

It is the third generation launch vehicle of India. It is the first Indian launch vehicle to be equipped with liquid stages.

Difference between PSLV and GSLV:

India has two operational launchers- Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).

PSLV was developed to launch low-Earth Orbit satellites into polar and sun synchronous orbits. It has since proved its versatility by launching geosynchronous, lunar and interplanetary spacecraft successfully.

On the other hand, GSLV was developed to launch the heavier INSAT class of geosynchronous satellites into orbit. In its third and final stage, GSLV uses the indigenously developed cryogenic upper stage.

Different orbits:

  • Geostationary orbit (GEO)
  • Low Earth orbit (LEO)
  • Medium Earth orbit (MEO)
  • Polar orbit and Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO)
  • Transfer orbits and geostationary transfer orbit (GTO)
  • Lagrange points (L-points)

Padma award and the recipient’s consent

(GS-II: Government policies and issues arising out of their implementation)

In News:

The Padma awards are announced every year on the eve of Republic Day.

Details:

As many as 128 people ranging from veteran politicians, businessmen, scientists and doctors to artists and ordinary people engaged in public service were announced to have been selected for conferment of Padma awards this year.

While most accepted the awards gracefully, former West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee refused to accept it.

What are Padma awards?

They are the highest civilian honour of India after the Bharat Ratna.

Instituted in 1954 along with Bharat Ratna.

The awards are given in three categories: Padma Vibhushan (for exceptional and distinguished service), Padma Bhushan (distinguished service of higher order) and Padma Shri (distinguished service).

The award seeks to recognise achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved.

Limitations and exceptions:

The awardees do not get any cash reward but a certificate signed by the President apart from a medallion which they can wear at public and government functions.

The awards are, however, not a conferment of title and the awardees are expected to not use them as prefix or suffix to their names.

A Padma awardee can be given a higher award only after five years of the conferment of the earlier award.

Not more than 120 awards can be given in a year but this does not include posthumous awards or awards given to NRIs and foreigners.

Eligibility:

All persons without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex are eligible for these awards. However, government servants including those working with PSUs, except doctors and scientists, are not eligible for these awards.

The award is given for “special services” and not just for “long service”. “It should not be merely excellence in a particular field, but the criteria has to be ‘excellence plus’.

Who nominates the awardees?

Any citizen of India can nominate a potential recipient.

One can even nominate one’s own self.

All nominations are to be done online where a form is to be filled along with details of the person or the organisation being nominated.

An 800-word essay detailing the work done by the potential awardee is also to be submitted for the nomination to be considered.

Who selects the awardees?

All nominations received for Padma awards are placed before the Padma Awards Committee, which is constituted by the Prime Minister every year.

The Padma Awards Committee is headed by the Cabinet Secretary and includes Home Secretary, Secretary to the President and four to six eminent persons as members.

The recommendations of the committee are submitted to the Prime Minister and the President of India for approval.

Is the recipient’s consent sought?

There is no provision for seeking a written or formal consent of the recipient before announcement of the award. However, before the announcement, every recipient receives a call from the Ministry of Home Affairs informing him or her about the selection. In case the recipient expresses a desire to be excluded from the award list, the name is removed.