The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Funds block after home query

Darjeeling/Siliguri, March 9: The Union home ministry’s decision to stop all foreign funding to Darjeeling Jesuits of North Bengal (DJNB) has hampered development work in most of the schools and ashrams that the Jesuits run in the region.

On Wednesday, a team of CBI officials raided simultaneously the offices of the DJNB in Darjeeling and Siliguri to look into certain allegations of anomaly brought by the ministry.

Stalling the flow of foreign funds to the organisation’s bank account registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act (FCRA), 1976, the home department has sought clarifications from the Jesuits on four counts. Father John Wilfred Lobo, secretary, DJNB, said: “In October 2005, a two-member team from the FCRA section (of the home ministry) came to inspect the accounts unannounced and asked for supporting documents for all vouchers.” Following this, the ministry stopped the entry of foreign funds to the account from April 25, 2006.

The home ministry has also raised the following issues:

Why have the DJNB invested in mutual funds'

Why have multiple accounts been opened'

Are there any Canadian Jesuits in the governing body'

The Jesuits have admitted that there were “some procedural errors”.

“(For example) we were not aware that we had to inform the donors about investments in mutual funds. Moreover, we were only investing those amounts which were not being used as we did not want to keep the money lying idle,” said Father Lobo.

More than 15 institutions in north Bengal and Sikkim are run by the Jesuits, who have been working here since 1888.

The Jesuits also maintained that they had opened multiple accounts for practical reasons. “Since we function in different parts of the region, it was not practical to operate from a single account which is in Calcutta. We opened the five accounts only for disbursement purposes,” said Lobo, who maintained that though the association was founded by the Canadian Jesuits in the late 1800s, it had no foreigners in its governing body since 2004. They have also maintained that they could not provide the vouchers immediately to the team in 2005 as they had come unannounced.

The DJNB was registered as a society in 1976 and the Jesuits claim that so far they had received Rs 67 crores as foreign funding.

The Jesuits maintain that since their registration they have been submitting Form 3 to the FCRA department with the audited statements and accounts of contributions received from donors.

“We were asked to redeem our other account numbers, which we have done,” said Lobo.

However, with the home ministry putting a ban on foreign donations, many of its centres such as the Jesu Ash-ram for the Destitutes, in Matigara, which treats the poor and the sick for free are bearing the brunt.

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