‘Need to regulate NGOs better’

Print edition : July 11, 2014

Shahnawaz Hussain. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Interview with BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain.

TAKEN unawares by the exposure of an Intelligence Bureau report that questioned the role of NGOs, the Bharatiya Janata Party took time to formulate its response. Since the report drew heavily on Narendra Modi’s speeches during the Lok Sabha election campaign, the party could neither afford to ignore the report nor be seen as defending it too enthusiastically. The party finally decided that the noose should be tightened around NGOs. BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain spoke to Frontline. Excerpts:

The I.B. report was obviously prepared during the United Progressive Alliance government regime. It drew heavily on Narendra Modi’s election campaign speeches. What is the party’s stand on this issue, now that it is heading the government?

Irrespective of which government was in power when the report was prepared, the fact remains that the I.B. has referred this report to the government and it raises some very serious issues. So the party is of the opinion that the government should take cognisance of the matter and do the needful. The issues raised are relevant to the country’s development and we must not ignore them. Nobody should be allowed to create obstacles in the country’s development on the basis of issues like the environment. The party has still not studied the full report, but we are of the opinion that the role of NGOs, their source of funding and their activities should be monitored closely because there have been serious complaints against them for some time now.

Do you think the UPA government simply failed to realise the urgency of the matter or was it just too inefficient to deal with this?

Without going into the causes of why the UPA did nothing on this issue, I would just like to say that yes, complaints about NGOs’ functioning have been around for some time and the then Home Minister [Sushil Kumar] Shinde did talk about doing something about it. But he actually did nothing.

Do you think the issues the NGOs have raised are irrelevant in the journey towards development?

Of course not. But we have to decide which issues are genuine and which are not. There has to be a proper balance between such concerns and development. Nobody should be allowed to hold the country’s development to ransom in the name of the environment. Proper checks and balances are required, and I am sure the government is working towards this.

Besides the big NGOs like Amnesty, Greenpeace and ActionAid, there are many Indian NGOs also which get aid from the Indian government. Do you think their role and source of funding should also be monitored?

See, there are innumerable complaints about NGOs of all shapes and sizes, whether they are foreign-funded or funded by the Indian government. What we need is a proper mechanism to scrutinise and monitor the role and activities of all NGOs and to ensure that the funds they get are used for the right causes. Nobody has the right to waste taxpayers’ money. I had a talk with the Finance Minister [Arun Jaitley] and he is monitoring the situation closely. I think there is an urgent need for the government to intervene in this matter.

Do you think there is a larger conspiracy by the West against India to slow down India’s development through these NGOs by raising the bogey of the environment and so on?

I have not studied the report yet, so I cannot comment on this. All I will say now is that there is a need to scan and regulate NGOs better, and I am sure the Finance Ministry will take cognisance of the I.B. report in this regard.

There is a view that this is a move to ease out activists opposed to your ideology from the decision-making process. This has been seen in the manner in which most of the key posts in the government are being filled with people affiliated to the Vivekananda International Foundation.

What is wrong in taking people from the Vivekananda Foundation? Obviously, we cannot recruit from the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. They are all reputed people in their own right and the Vivekananda Foundation is a highly regarded think tank, so what is wrong if we draw upon its expertise?

Since the report has quoted from Modi’s speeches, are we heading for banning and tightening of NGOs that do not support your ideology?

Mr Modi is a fair man, he will not allow injustice to be done to anyone. He believes in fair play. We should wait and watch.