India cancels licences of nearly 9,000 charities over foreign funds

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundatiob) - India has cancelled the registration of nearly 9,000 charities for failing to declare details of donations from abroad, as New Delhi tightens surveillance on foreign-funded non-governmental organisations in the country.

The crackdown comes days after the government suspended the licence of Greenpeace India and put US-based Ford Foundation on a security watch list, ordering government approval of any of its activities in the country.

A "cancellation order" issued by the home ministry and uploaded to its website late on Monday said the government had cancelled the registration of 8,975 associations because they did not declare details of their foreign funding for three years starting from 2009/10.

The order, dated April 6, did not name the groups whose licences were cancelled but said they had not filed the "mandatory annual returns".

Home ministry officials were not immediately available for a comment.

Critics have argued that the government's decision to restrict the movement of foreign funding to local charities is an attempt to stifle the voices of those who oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi's economic agenda.

Last June, India's intelligence service said Greenpeace and other lobby groups were damaging the country's economy by campaigning against power projects, mining and genetically modified food.

While Greenpeace denied the allegations, earlier this month India barred the organisation from receiving foreign funds by suspending its licence for six months and freezing its accounts.

The Ford Foundation, one of the world's largest charitable funds, was put on a watch list on Thursday after the home ministry said it was investigating funding to a local group run by a prominent activist and critic of Modi.

The United States has expressed concern that India's crackdown on the activities of Greenpeace and the Ford Foundation risks limiting the "necessary and critical debate" in the world's largest democracy.

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