Most of the doings of the Narendra Modi government bear a certain hallmark: On the outside, they have a popular, presentable reason that can be easily sold to the public to ostensibly to achieve certain outcomes, and inside, a half-boiled, unworkable plan that will put a lot of people to inconvenience. Demonetisation, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and the bills to rework Indian farming are examples of this. The latest in the series is the amendment to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020, which Parliament has passed now.
The government is sure that this legislation is necessary to control errant NGOs, including the religious ones. The main feature of the new Bill is that it makes it mandatory for all the key people of an organisation to present their Aadhaar numbers to the authorities for getting the registration. The government, which got the Aadhaar Act passed in Parliament as a money bill, had assured the Supreme Court that Aadhaar numbers would be made mandatory only when a person receives government largesse. It will be interesting to see how the government will defend this provision in the FCRA Bill, if it should be challenged in court. It defies logic when the government mandates a recipient organisation to open an account at a particular bank in the national capital at a time when banking has become a mobile application and the regulators get real-time information on any transaction by agencies under their watch if they wanted.
The Bill also empowers the government to make the organisations use the fund after a summary inquiry, whereas the existing law allows such an action only if the organisation concerned is found guilty of violating the law. The Bill has many such crippling provisions. Regulating a sector is part of governance, but strangulating it is not. The government must realise it.