- The Supreme Court asked the government why the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been tasked to keep an eye on the inflow and subsequent outflow of foreign funds to NGOs under the foreign contributions regulations law.
- Intelligence Bureau (IB) inputs have shown that foreign funds entering India were used to fund activities that destabilize national peace and security.
- The inputs even indicated that the money was used to train naxals.
- “There is an element of national security, integrity of the nation involved here.
A summary of key amendments brought in by the FCRA Amendment Act is provided below
- Prohibition on receiving Foreign Contribution: 3(1) of the FCRA sets out a list of persons who are prohibited from receiving any kind of foreign contribution, including inter alia, election candidates, correspondent, columnist, cartoonist, editor, owner, or publisher of a registered newspaper, judges, government servants, employees of governmental corporation, members of any legislature and political parties, entities engaged in the production or broadcast of news or current affairs. The FCRA Amendment Act has amended this section and added “public servants”.
- Transfer of foreign contributions: Previously under §7 of the FCRA, foreign contribution could be transferred only to those persons who were registered or had obtained a prior permission under the FCRA to obtain foreign contribution.
- Requirement of Aadhaar: The FCRA Amendment Act has added a new provision which provides that the Central Government may require persons seeking registration/prior permission/renewal to also provide Aadhaar number of all office bearers, directors, key functionaries, or provide copies of passport or the Overseas Citizen of India card, for foreigners.
- The FCRA Amendment Act has amended §17 and provided that foreign contribution can only be received in an account designated as “FCRA account”, opened with the prescribed branch of the State Bank of India New Delhi.
- Restriction on utilization of funds: Previously, 8 of the FCRA stipulated a maximum cap of 50% on the percentage of foreign contribution that may be utilized towards administrative expenses.
- It is relevant to note that ‘administrative expenses’ are defined to include salaries, wages, travel expenses, expenses incurred towards hiring of personnel, consumables like water/electricity, telephone charges, postal charges, charges towards rent and repair of premises, costs associated with running of office and vehicles, costs incurred towards legal and professional fees etc.
- The FCRA Amendment Act has reduced this limit by amending §8 of the FCRA. The provision now states that spends of foreign contribution towards administrative expenses shall be restricted to an upper limit of 20%.
- The COVID-19 vaccines are exceptions in some sense.
- These are the first vaccines which have been recommended for all adults, who have been given priority over children.
- There are wide inequities in vaccine coverage in children by geography, gender, parent’s education and family’s socio-economic status, and other stratifies.
- The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) in India, on a few occasions, discussed adult immunization but stayed away from any recommendation for the general population except for the vaccination of health workers as high-risk groups, for hepatitis B vaccine, etc.
- There is very limited data on the burden of vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) in adult age groups
- There are more deaths due to pneumonia in adults than in children.
- A proportion of those illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths in all age groups can be prevented by increasing coverage of currently licensed vaccines which prevents pneumonia and related complications.
- The COVID-19 vaccination drive has drawn our attention to the possibilities of adult vaccination, which should be used effectively.
- The initiatives should be taken to educate public, health-care providers and members of professional associations about currently available vaccines for adult age groups.
- First, the mandate of NTAGI (national technical group on immunization) needs to be expanded to adult vaccination
- Second, the VPD (Vaccine preventable disease) surveillance system and the capacity to record, report and analyze data on the disease burden and immunization coverage need to be strengthened.
- Third, the capacity of research and academic institutions to conduct operational research including the cost benefit analysis and to guide evidence-informed decisions needs to be boosted.
- Fourth, the process for developing and drafting a road map, possibly India’s national adult vaccination policy and strategy should be initiated.
Fishermen and India and Pakistan maritime boundary
- An Indian fisherman was killed in firing by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) off the Gujarat coast on November
- Conflicts over fishing rights are not infrequent along the International Maritime Boundary Line between the two countries
- Sir Creek, originally Ban Ganga, is a 96-km tidal estuary in the uninhabited marshlands of the Indus River Delta on the border between India and Pakistan. The creek flows into the Arabian Sea and separates Gujarat state in India from Sindh province in Pakistan.
- The dispute lies in the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between Pakistan and India. Before independence, the area was part of British India. After independence in 1947, Sindh became a part of Pakistan while Gujarat remained a part of India.
- In 1968, an international tribunal resolved the larger Great Rann of Kutch border claims of India and Pakistan, which also covered Sir Creek.
- In this resolution, India received 90% of its request and Pakistan received 10%.
- Elements of dispute remain in Sir Creek with conflicting claims from both sides. From 1997 to 2012, there have been twelve rounds of talks between the two nations, without a breakthrough
- In 2007, both countries formed a joint judicial committee comprising eight retired judges four each from India and Pakistan to facilitate the exchange of civilian prisoners.
- The mechanism has been defunct since 2013, and attempts to revive it in 2018 did not bear fruit.
- Civilians along international borders often get caught in disputes between countries, and India has several such hotspots, on land and in sea.
- Even fishermen venturing near the India-Sri Lanka maritime border often fall victim though both countries maintain cordial bilateral ties.
- Many Indian villages along the borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh also become theatres of conflict, as communities often find it difficult to reconcile with international borders that divide their traditional spheres of economic and social activities.
- Pakistan has aggressively sponsored violence in India, and terrorists trained by its agencies sailed in a hijacked Indian fishing boat in 2008 to Mumbai.
- It is a tragedy that ordinary people could end up in a foreign prison while trying to earn their livelihood.
- India and Pakistan must consider this as a humanitarian crisis and work towards resolving it.
China exports warship to Pakistan
- China on delivered to Pakistan’s Navy what its official media described as the “most advanced” Chinese warship ever exported, which is to be deployed by Pakistan in the Indian Ocean.
- The delivery of the Type 054A frigate is the latest example of increasingly close military cooperation, which many Chinese and Pakistani analysts see as aimed at bolstering Pakistani capabilities in an effort to balance India in the region.
- It has been named PNS Tughril by the Pakistani Navy, and it is “the first hull of four Type 054 frigates being constructed for the Pakistan Navy”