13 October 2020

In this episode we talk to Ingrid Srinath, Director of the Centre for Social Impact & Philanthropy at Ashoka University about philanthropy and civil society in India and the impact of new restrictions that have come in as part of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act 2020 (FCRA 2020). Disclaimer: the views expressed are Ingrid’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer, or of CAF.

We discussed:

The FCRA 2020

  • What is the FCRA 2020?
  • Why are CSOs in India concerned about the impact it will have?
  • How much existing funding will be affected by the new rules?
  • What is the rationale from government? Does this stand up to scrutiny?
  • Has the Covid-19 pandemic played any role in precipitating this move on the part of the Indian government?
  • What is the rationale for prohibiting onward granting? Why is this a particular cause for concern?
  • Will this particularly harm smaller organisations and less poplar causes?
  • As part of the new FCRA the Indian government has stipulated that no more than 20% of a foreign contribution can be spent on “administrative expenses”. How are these defined? What is the rationale for this?
  • Will this new limitation on administrative expenses make it harder to invest in infrastructure, digital capabilities, governance etc.?
  • The new law also requires CSOs in receipt of FCRA funds to do so in a dedicated bank account at a New Delhi branch of the State Bank of India- what is the rationale for this?

The wider context for civil society and philanthropy in India

  • What is the overall makeup of the Indian civil society sector, in terms of formalised vs informal orgs, large vs small, different cause areas etc.?
  • What is the attitude of the Indian government towards civil society in general? What is the attitude towards CSO advocacy and campaigning?
  • How has the Covid pandemic affected Indian civil society?
  • What is the infrastructure for civil society in India like? Are there gaps, and if so where?
  • What is the history and current context for philanthropy in India? E.g. how much HNWI giving is there? How much mass market giving? What role does corporate philanthropy play? What role do foundations play?
  • What kind of domestic causes receive philanthropic funding in India?
  • What is the attitude of the Indian government towards philanthropy?
  • What is the attitude of the Indian public towards philanthropy?
  • What kind of philanthropic responses to the covid-19 crisis have we seen in India?
  • Do recent critiques of philanthropy in the US and elsewhere resonate in the Indian context? (E.g. re that philanthropy exacerbates inequality, that it is anti-democratic, that some source of wealth are “tainted” etc.).
Doctor treats flood victims in Barpeta India 2019
Barpeta, Assam, India. August 7, 2019. Doctor treats flood victims at a free medical health camp at a flood affected village in Assam.
Ingrid Srinath Ashoka university
Director, Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy, Ashoka University

About the Giving Thought podcast

The Giving Thought podcast is an exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society. Launched in 2017 it is recognised as an insightful and influential source of philanthropic debate.  Rhodri Davies director of our Giving Thought Think Tank hosts the podcast, discussing contemporary issues and interviewing sector experts. Episodes are also available free on iTunes and Libsyn.

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