The Union home ministry on Monday revealed that it has refused to renew the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act licence of the Missionaries of Charity, cutting off a key source of funds for the Calcutta-headquartered organisation that Mother Teresa founded.
An FCRA licence is mandatory for a non-profit to receive foreign funds. Its non-renewal means the Charity cannot get funds from abroad. The ministry said the decision not to renew the licence was taken on December 25 on the basis of “adverse inputs”, without clarifying what those were.
The statement was issued in the evening after reports circulated through the day that the organisation’s accounts had been frozen. Coming at a time when intimidation of Christians has been reported from multiple BJP-ruled states, the reports triggered outrage.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said: “Shocked to hear that on Christmas, Union ministry froze all bank accounts of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in India! Their 22,000 patients & employees have been left without food & medicines. While the law is paramount, humanitarian efforts must not be compromised.”
CPM leader Surjya Kanta Mishra issued a similar tweet around the same time: “Yesterday, Christmas Day the Union ministry froze all bank accounts of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The Govt has frozen all the accounts in India, including cash in hand. Their 22,000 patients, including employees, are left without food and medicines.”
Mother Teresa, a Roman Catholic nun who was a Nobel laureate and a Bharat Ratna recipient, had founded the organisation over 70 years ago. It has more than 3,000 nuns worldwide who run hospices, community kitchens, schools, leper colonies and homes for abandoned children.
Amid outrage on social media, the home ministry issued a statement in the evening denying it had frozen the accounts. The statement said the Missionaries of Charity’s application for renewal of FCRA licence was refused on December 25, 2021, for not meeting the eligibility conditions.
The FCRA registration was valid up to October 31, 2021, and had been extended up to December 31, 2021, along with other applications pending renewal, the ministry said.
“However, while considering the MoC’s renewal application, some adverse inputs were noticed,” it said.
The ministry further said it had not frozen the organisation’s accounts and that “State Bank of India has informed that MoC itself sent a request to SBI to freeze its accounts”.
The Missionaries of Charity, which had not spoken through the day, later issued a statement in which it said: “…There is no freeze ordered by the ministry of home affairs on any of our bank accounts. We have been informed that our renewal application has not been approved. Therefore, as a measure to ensure there is no lapse, we have asked our centres not to operate any FC accounts until the matter is resolved.”
Trinamul Congress MP Derek O’Brien shared the statement on Twitter with a post in which he suggested the home ministry had put pressure on the organisation to issue the clarification as part of “damage control”.