Govt. curbs funding for 10 climate change, child labour NGOs
Five years after it cancelled the registration of international non-governmental organisation (NGO) Greenpeace to receive foreign funds, the government has moved to restrict the funding for a group of ten American, Australian and European NGOs dealing with environmental, climate change and child labour issues. An internal Reserve Bank of India (RBI) circular dated July 1, 2021, that was sent to all banks, said the government had specified a number of foreign entities to be placed on the Prior Reference Category (PRC list) using the stringent Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010, that was tightened in September 2020, making both banks and chartered accountants accountable for any unauthorised funds that come through. The NGOs, that add to more than 80 international voluntary agencies now on the government’s PRC list, include the European Climate Foundation, three U.S.-based NGOs (the Omidyar Network International, Humanity United and Stardust foundation), two Australia-based NGOs (Walk Free Foundation and Minderoo Foundation), and U.K.-based Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Freedom fund and Laudes foundation, as well as U.K./ U.A.E. based Legatum fund. The RBI has instructed that any fund flow from the (specified) donor agencies to any NGO/Voluntary organisation/ persons in India should be brought to the notice of the Ministry of Home Affairs so that the funds are allowed to be credited to the recipients only after clearance/ prior permission from the MHA’s Foreigners Division of the FCRA wing, the notice sent out recently by a private bank to its branches, which The Hindu obtained a copy of, said. The Reserve Bank didn’t respond to a request for a comment, but officials confirmed informally that the note had been sent out, in line with previous such circulars sent to banks warning them of NGOs banned or suspended from acquiring or disbursing foreign funds. Significantly, all the NGOs on the latest list work on climate change and environmental projects and/or child rights and slavery projects, subjects where the government has been sensitive to international criticism in the past. When asked why so many environmental NGOs are on the list, given the government’s stated international commitments on fighting climate change, an official said that despite India’s record in complying with the Paris agreement, global pressures are intensifying on India to raise the Nationally Determined Contributions. In order to create noise in the media, several pro-climate NGOs are focusing on advocacy against coal, which is considered a violation of FCRA provisions, the official added. In 2017, the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) had also objected strongly to the International Labour Organisation’s Global Slavery Index, questioning the credibility of data which had ranked India 53rd of 167 countries where modern slavery was prevalent, and as the country with highest number of people in forced labour, according to a reply in Parliament. The index is part of the Australian Walk Free Foundation’s annual survey that is used by other NGOs working in the field. According to the MHA’s responses in Parliament, between 2016-2020, the government cancelled the FCRA licenses of more than 6,600 NGOs and suspended those of about 264. Among those who have been put on the PRC list or had to downsize or even shut down their Indian operations due to FCRA action by the government in the last few years are Greenpeace International, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Compassion International, National Endowment for Democracy, U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC), and Open Society Foundation. A UK-based NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has now taken the government to court for suspending its FCRA license, and won temporary relief in the High Court in Delhi in, allowing it to access 25% of its funds, and a final order is expected in October.
Bhupendra Patel sworn in as Gujarat CM
Bhupendra Patel was sworn in as the Gujarat Chief Minister by Governor Acharya Devvrat at the Raj Bhavan in Gandhinagar on Monday, a day after he was unanimously elected as the BJP legislature party leader in a meeting. Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Chief Ministers of Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana and Union Ministers Mansukh Mandaviya, Narendra Singh Tomar, Pralhad Joshi, Parshottam Rupala, Bhupender Yadav and others attended the swearing-in ceremony. Only the Chief Minister took oath on Monday and the Cabinet members will be sworn in separately after the names are decided by the party. According to sources, Shah, Bhupendra Patel and other leaders will decide on the names as many senior leaders and members of the outgoing Cabinet are likely to be dropped to bring in new faces. There is yet no clarity regarding the continuation of Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel. We don’t know yet whether there will be a new Deputy CM or just Cabinet Ministers, a party leader said. It is also not clear whether Mr. Nitin Patel will be part of the Cabinet or not. Nitin Patel on Monday denied media reports that he was sulking after being overlooked for the post of Chief Minister as the party picked first-time legislator Bhupendra Patel, a protege of Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, as the successor of Vijay Rupani.
JEE-Main results by Wednesday, JEE-Advanced registrations postponed again
Twelve days after the last session of the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE-Main) was held, results are yet to be declared, forcing the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to once again postpone registrations for their entrance test JEE-Advanced, which were due to begin on Monday. The top 2.5 lakh ranked students from JEE-Main are eligible to write JEE-Advanced, which is scheduled to be held on October 3. The results will be declared tomorrow or latest by Wednesday, said Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare, who did not comment on the reasons for the delay. Senior officials at the National Testing Agency and the Education Ministry insisted that it was not related to the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) ongoing probe into an alleged cheating scandal at a JEE-Main examination centre in Sonepat, Haryana. One senior official said a COVID-19 infection among key personnel contributed to the delay. The JEE-Main examination is not just an entrance test for admission to the National Institutes of Technology and other central and state engineering colleges, but is also used as the eligibility test for IIT aspirants. This year, four sessions of JEE-Main were held, with students allowed to attempt the examination as often as they liked, with their best score to be used for ranking purposes. The fourth session, initially scheduled to be held in May, was delayed because of COVID-19, and then delayed again to allow a greater gap from the third session. The last session for B.E./B.Tech aspirants was completed on September 1, and the provisional answer keys released on September 6. The final results and the all India ranking was expected to be released by September 10, in time for the JEE-Advanced registrations to begin the next day. As the JEE-Main results were delayed, JEE-Advanced registrations were initially postponed to September 13. Faced with further delays, a Monday evening notice to candidates on the JEE Advanced website simply asked them to keep visiting for updates on registration without specifying when registration would actually open. The CBI has arrested 11 people in connection with an alleged scam where students were charged up to ₹15 lakh for assistance in cheating in the JEE-Main examination through remote access to computers at a Sonepat centre.
Former Union minister Oscar Fernandes passes away
Following a nearly two-month long hospitalisation, former Union minister and member of Rajya Sabha Oscar Fernandes passed away on September 13. The 80-year-old Congress leader was admitted to Yenepoya hospital in Mangaluru on July 19 following intracranial bleeding suffered after a fall in his house during a routine workout on July 18. He underwent operation for removal of a clot in the brain on July 27 and was undergoing regular dialysis. A hospital spokesperson said Fernandes passed away at 2.15 p.m. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter. Hailing from Udupi, Fernandes had been a member of Parliament since 1980. As a Union minister in the UPA government, Fernandes held the portfolios of Road Transport and Highways, Labour and Employment, Statistics and Programme Implementation and Overseas Affairs, both as a Cabinet Minister and Minister of State. He was among the close confidants of Indira Gandhi’s family, including former prime minister late Rajiv Gandhi, his wife Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul Gandhi. He served Rajiv Gandhi as his Parliamentary Secretary. He had held various positions in the All India Congress Committee (AICC), including general secretary, and had served as president of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). He was among the six trustees of National Herald.
Malaysian PM signs key pact with opposition MPs. Barely a month in office, Malaysia’s new leader has won opposition support to shore up his fragile government in exchange for a slew of reforms as Parliament reopened on Monday. Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob signed an unprecedented cooperation pact in Parliament with the main Opposition bloc led by Anwar Ibrahim, in a move to prevent any bid to undermine his rule ahead of general elections due in two years. The political stability and transformation pact will give Mr. Ismail the backing of 88 lawmakers in Anwar’s bloc, in addition to 114 that support him in the 222member house. Mr. Ismail said in a statement that the pact will lead to bipartisan cooperation and political reforms that will bolster governance, fight the COVID-19 crisis, and help to revive the economy. The government is confident that this memorandum of understanding will not only help cast aside all political differences but also ensure the country’s recovery is holistic and inclusive, Mr. Ismail said. Officials said further details of the agreement will be unveiled soon. The pact came after Mr. Ismail last week offered reforms, including new laws to prevent party defections and limiting the Prime Minister’s tenure to 10 years. He also pledged to immediately lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18, ensure bipartisan agreement on any new Bill and get opposition input on the country’s economic recovery. He also made it so the role of Opposition leader gets the same remuneration and privileges as a Cabinet Minister.
Malaysia has recorded close to two million COVID-19 infections, with more than 20,000 deaths.
Climate change could cause 216 mn to migrate:World Bank. Climate change could push more than 200 million people to leave their homes in the next three decades and create migration hot spots unless urgent action is taken to reduce global emissions and bridge the development gap, a World Bank report has found. The second part of the Groundswell report published on Monday examined how the impacts of slow-onset climate change, such as water scarcity, decreasing crop productivity and rising sea levels, could lead to millions of what it describes as climate migrants by 2050 under three different scenarios with varying degrees of climate action and development. Under the most pessimistic scenario, with a high level of emissions and unequal development, the report forecasts up to 216 million people moving within their own countries across the six regions analysed. Those regions are Latin America; North Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa; Eastern Europe and Central Asia; South Asia; and East Asia and the Pacific. In the most climate friendly scenario, with a low level of emissions and inclusive, sustainable development, the world could still see 44 million people being forced to leave their homes.