The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued an order asking nonprofits that have a Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence to send them information on their COVID-19 related activities by April 15th, 2020; and to do so every month thereafter as well.
This order follows an announcement made by the Home Ministry a week ago lauding the work of civil society organisations and requesting them to help the government provide support to all those affected by the pandemic.
Not all FCRA registered nonprofits seem to have received the notification.
This follow-up letter, however, is addressed specifically to organisations that have an FCRA licence. It asks organisations to upload their information “directly in the COVID-19 Response Format which is available at the FCRA login Portal https://fcraonline.nic.in in the Service under FCRA tab.”
Though the circular is addressed to “The chief functionaries of all FCRA Associations as per the List and email addresses” not all FCRA registered nonprofits seem to have received the email or the notification.
The result: there is uncertainty among organisations with FCRA licences on whether they need to undertake these activities and upload this data or not. “I haven’t received this letter/email. Also, when I tried to log onto the site with my registered user ID and password, there was a message that stated, ‘You are not required to fill out this form,’ ” said an executive director at an education nonprofit.
A mid-sized nonprofit based in Mumbai was informed about this directive by their lawyer who told them that they would have to immediately undertake COVID-19 related activities—even if there was no direct link to their regular programmes.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that there is no clarity about the criteria based on which organisations have been picked for this list. While some of them work in healthcare, social justice, labour, and other areas where they can provide direct relief and support to those affected by COVID-19, many are in unrelated sectors including employability, skills training, teacher training, child rights, and so on.
As a result, at the moment, nonprofit leaders are seeking clarity on this from the government on whether this is applicable to all FCRA nonprofits. If not, what is the criteria for eligibility, and more importantly, what happens if organisations are not able to undertake COVID-19-related activities?
For instance, intermediary organisations—that support other nonprofits in terms of capacity building, funding, legal services, and so on, but do not work directly with communities themselves—may not be able to provide COVID-19 support. In other cases, organisations might not have funds that they can allocate to this new line of activity.
At this time, the ask is simple: civil society organisations need greater clarity on this new government directive.
This article has been updated to reflect edits made to a quote in the story.
- Read about the order from the Ministry of Home Affairs in greater detail; understand the questions that nonprofits have, where they can ask them, and possible next steps.