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FCRA refusal by govt will hamper humanitarian work during Covid: Oxfam India

Haiti may revoke Oxfam's right to operate in the country

A day after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) refused to renew the registration of Oxfam India under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), the organisation said the action would hamper its humanitarian work in 16 states, including the setting up of oxygen plants and other Covid relief work.

“The Government of India’s decision to refuse renewal of Oxfam India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration will severely affect the organisation’s ongoing crucial humanitarian and social work in 16 states across the country. This includes setting up of oxygen plants, providing lifesaving medical and diagnostic equipment such as oxygen cylinders and ventilators and delivery of food to the most vulnerable communities during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Oxfam said in a statement.

At midnight on December 31, 2021, the FCRA registration of Oxfam India along with 5,932 other NGOs lapsed. MHA sources said while 5,789 of these NGOs had not applied for renewal, the applications of the rest had been rejected due to “various irregularities”. Oxfam India and Indian Medical Association (IMA) were among such NGOs.

“Oxfam India has been working in public interest with the government, communities and frontline workers in the country for decades now. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Oxfam India joined hands with health departments, district administrations and ASHA workers across the nation to provide life-saving equipment and support. We are also working with various state governments to ensure bridging the learning gap in school education due to Covid-19,” Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, said.

“We have worked to enhance women livelihood and worked with forest dwellers to ensure that they are not denied their rights. We have worked in some of the most flood-prone districts to make communities resilient and provide a lasting solution. The Ministry of Home Affairs decision to deny renewal of FCRA registration will severely hamper these collaborations which were providing relief to those who needed it the most during times of crisis,” he added.

Behar, however, said the ministry’s actions would not “reduce Oxfam India’s commitment to serve the vulnerable communities in-country and uphold values enshrined in the Indian Constitution”. “Oxfam India will reach out to the MHA and will urge them to lift the funding restrictions to ensure vulnerable communities keep receiving the support they need at this critical time of pandemic,” Behar said.

According to Oxfam, under its Mission Sanjeevani initiative, Oxfam India provided six Oxygen generating plants and distributed over 13,388 lifesaving medical equipment such as oxygen cylinders, BiPAP Machines, concentrators, and ventilators, over 116,957 safety and PPE kits, over 9929 diagnostic equipment such as thermometers and oximeters, and 20,000 testing kits in 16 states.

“We reached to over 141 district-level hospitals, 171 Primary Health Centres, and 167 Community Health Centres,” it said.

It said it trained and provided safety kits to over 48,000 ASHA workers in nine states and delivered food ration to over 5.76 lakh people. It also claimed to have made cash transfers to over 10,000 people to the tune of Rs 3.53 crore to help them with their immediate needs during the pandemic.

“Since March 2020, Oxfam India was at the forefront whenever Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon NGOs and civil society to join the fight against Covid-19 by helping the government to strengthen health services and accelerate the pace of vaccination drive. The Supreme Court also acknowledged the contribution of NGOs in providing relief during the pandemic,” Oxfam India said.

The organisation said apart from this it has worked extensively with tribal communities, educating girl children and helping people during natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and landslides.

Invoking its long legacy, the organisation said, “While Oxfam India became a fully Indian organisation in 2008 with prominent citizens of India as its board members, Oxfam had been working in India since 1951. Throughout these seven decades, the organisation has always upheld Indian laws, propagated country’s constitutional values and worked tirelessly for the people of India.”

The organisation first came to India in 1951 to provide famine relief in Bihar. Since then, it has been involved with Amul cooperative movement, helped recruit doctors and medical students to provide medical assistance to refugees coming in India from East Pakistan in 1971, provided crucial relief material to communities on the Indian side of the border during Kargil war and provided relief and rehabilitation during Tsunami.

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