A Delhi-based NGO, Public Health Foundation of India has been barred from receiving foreign funds including from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The NGO aimed to strengthen training, research and policy development in public health and was launched in 2006 by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and provided assistance to Central and State Governments in several areas ranging from HIV prevention, access to drugs, tobacco control etc. The Union Home Ministry cancelled PHFI’s registration under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, alleging violations of the law.
According to an Indian Express report, PHFI was served a home ministry notice for violation of FCRA norms in carrying out its advocacy work against tobacco. The alleged violations included lobbying with MPs and the media against tobacco. The ministry also alleged that PHFI had opened accounts it didn’t disclose, misreported foreign donations and transferred money abroad without alerting the government. PHFI head Dr Reddy was quoted by PTI as saying: “We have submitted all relevant documents and information to the ministry and are now waiting for a response.”
In the drive against tobacco, the Lok Sabha committee for subordinate legislation had emerged the biggest roadblock in the implementation of 85 per cent pictorial warnings on packs, delaying it from April 2015 to April 2016. A committee report tabled in March last year says: “:They highlighted before the committee the serious repercussions of the tobacco use on the health of humans, the effect & impact of printing of big and visible pictorial warning on different tobacco products viz. cigarette, bidi & pan masala packs on the illiterate and the youth of the country, the position of India vis-a-vis other countries in printing size of pictorial warning on tobacco products etc.” The witnesses named include PHFI director Monica Arora under the head Advocacy Forum for Tobacco Control
After the NDA government came to power in May 2014, FCRA licenses of around 20,000 NGOs have been cancelled by the Home Ministry, according to an Indian Express report. Of these, the FCRA licenses of over 9,500 NGOs were cancelled in 2015. Among them were senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Indira Jaising’s NGO, Lawyers Collective (LC), Greenpeace, and Teesta Setalvad-run Sabrang trust.