Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and several Kolkata-based minority and inter-faith groups called the move “an attack on India’s poorest of poor” and said they were appalled by “the timing (on Christmas) and lack of empathy”. The ministry on Monday said it had refused the organisation’s application for renewal of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act registration on Saturday.
The Centre said it didn’t approve Missionaries of Charity’s (MoC) Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) renewal application “for not meeting eligibility conditions” and over certain “adverse inputs” received when it was considering the application.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee was one of the first to protest after the news reached Kolkata. “Shocked to hear that on Christmas, Union ministry FROZE ALL BANK ACCOUNTS of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in India! Their 22,000 patients & employees have been left without food & medicines. While the law is paramount, humanitarian efforts must not be compromised,” she tweeted.
Shocked to hear that on Christmas, Union Ministry FROZE ALL BANK ACCOUNTS of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charit… https://t.co/VJAY1eYVIP
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) 1640597529000
Missionaries of Charity superior-general Sister M Prema issued a statement on Monday evening confirming that its FCRA renewal application had been refused. But there “is no freeze order by the ministry on any of our bank accounts”, she clarified. “We have asked our centres not to operate any of the foreign contribution accounts till the matter is resolved as a measure to ensure there is no lapse,” she said.
The MHA said MoC had itself asked the State Bank of India to freeze its bank accounts after the ministry rejected its application for renewal of registration under FCRA. “While considering the MoC’s renewal application, some adverse inputs were noticed. In consideration of these inputs on record, the renewal application of MoC was not approved. The FCRA registration of MoC was valid up to December 31, 2021. MHA didn’t freeze any accounts of MoC. State Bank of India has informed that MoC itself sent a request to SBI to freeze its accounts,” the ministry said on Monday.
Elaborating on “adverse inputs”, a source told TOI that they essentially relate to “audit irregularities”. This means that the financial dealings or accounts of the NGO associated with the late Mother Teresa, a Nobel laureate, were not found as per the requirements under FCRA by the ministry. “The renewal application under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act for the renewal of FCRA registration of Missionaries of Charity (MoC) was refused on December 25, 2021 for not meeting the eligibility conditions under FCRA 2010 and Foreign Contribution Regulation Rules (FCRR) 2011. No request/revision application has been received from Missionaries of Charity (MoC) for review of this refusal of renewal,” said the MHA.
In the absence of renewal of its FCRA licence, Missionaries of Charity will not be able to receive any foreign funding. However, its domestic funding will not be impacted. The foreign receipts of Missionaries of Charity totalled around Rs 75 crore in 2020-21, Rs 104 crore in 2019-20 and Rs 68 crore in 2018-19. The protests started immediately after the news reached Kolkata. The Catholic Association of Bengal’s response came immediately after Banerjee’s reaction.
“Today, more than ever before, the poorest are the ones struggling to come to terms with the unprecedented situation the pandemic has brought upon them. Mother Teresa did all she could for the poorest of the poor. Today a lifeline for those in need has been snapped as funds for all this work for the marginalised comes from generous individuals across the world. We see this curtailment of the FCRA funds as a harsh blow to their efforts to reach out to the poorest, the orphans, the handicapped, the leapers, the addicted, the aged and the uncared for, the sick, the abandoned and the dying,” CAB president Angelina Jasnani said, adding that the home ministry needed to find a way to ensure that the poor did not suffer and all required norms of the FCRA were met at the same time.
Missionaries of Charity spokesperson Sunita Kumar, who was associated with Mother Teresa for decades, reacted in disbelief. “This is very distressing. I cannot believe this to be true. Look at the work they have done in India and all over the world, caring for those who do not have anyone. The nuns lead a spartan life. Their quarters are bare. Mother herself lived all her life without even a fan though her room in Mother House was just above the kitchen and would be stifling in summer,” she recounted.
The law must take its course. Nonetheless, it is important to recognise that thousands of needy and deprived are dependent on this organisation for food, medicine and survival. We hope that they will not be left in the lurch.
United Interfaith Foundation (India) general secretary Satnam Singh Ahluwalia called the move “an attack on humanity to stop social outreach by the Missionaries of Charity sisters and brothers”. “We condemn the government action and are appalled by the timing and lack of empathy to consider the humanitarian disaster this decision will cause,” he added. TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien called the Centre’s “clarification” (that no bank account had been frozen) an example of “MHA… SPINDOCTORING & COVER-UP”.
“India has an opposition that will fight the good fight. And I have a leader who will always stand up for the oppressed, Mamata Banerjee,” he added.