‘Watered down reports, donors in fear’: Inside Modi govt’s crackdown on NGOs

Foreign funds are a lifeline for thousands of NGOs, now struggling with downsized staff, dropped projects, and a spillover effect.

WrittenBy:Sumedha Mittal
A minister takes away a rain cloud called FCRA licence, from a withered tree with NGO written on its bark.

The change is beyond cosmetic at the workspace of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, reduced to just the third floor of a building in Delhi’s Kalu Sarai after vacating the fourth.

Revolving chairs are stacked upside down in the area that once hosted an event advocating citizens’ right to information. A pile of air conditioners lies in a corner once dedicated to another programme to improve access to justice for incarcerated people. And computers are neatly packed in orange wrappers, placed in director Venkatesh Nayak’s cabins.

In 2021, the 30-year-old NGO, whose Indian office has been housed here since 1993, downsized its staff from 35 to 16 – a cut of almost 60 percent. And those left behind were asked to work from home at least three days a week, to reduce the costs of running an office. 

The same year, the CHRI dropped plans to track custodial deaths across the country as well as the status of women in Karnataka police, according to its 2021 report. “Our financial health is so poor that we are unable to even pay for the internet they use to work from home,” said director Nayak, adding that nearly 85 percent of the NGO’s funding came through foreign sources, which the NGO is unable to receive since 2021 following government action over alleged discrepancies in accounts. 

But the story of CHRI is the story of numerous other NGOs in India, caught in a whirlwind after the Narendra Modi government tightened its surveillance of foreign-funded outfits in the country. 

Since 2014, the ministry of home affairs has cancelled the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act registration of 16,764 NGOs, alleging

Subscribe now to unlock the story

paywall image

Why should I pay for news?

Independent journalism is not possible until you pitch in. We have seen what happens in ad-funded models: Journalism takes a backseat and gets sacrificed at the altar of clicks and TRPs.

Stories like these cost perseverance, time, and resources. Subscribe now to power our journalism.

  • Paywall stories on both Newslaundry and The News Minute
  • Priority access to all meet ups and events, including The Media Rumble
  • All subscriber-only interaction – NL Chatbox and monthly editorial call with the team
  • Stronger together merch – Fridge magnets and laptop stickers on annual plan




1001 off

Already a subscriber? Login

You may also like