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Coercion by MHA

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We, the members of the Medico Friend Circle (MFC), express our deep concern over the sudden and apparently arbitrary revocation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) licence of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India.

It is indeed surprising that an FCRA ­licence which was granted in August 2016, after an undoubtedly thorough scrutiny by the MHA, was revoked with retrospective effect within a few months on 10 April 2017, by the same ministry. Such a procedure suggests that it is a ­severe punitive measure, and raises questions about the appropriateness of the procedures adopted by the MHA for scrutinising applications for FCRA.

We are shocked to learn from media reports that among the stated reasons for the revocation of the FCRA licence of the PHFI, “lobbying the various stakeholders in its anti-tobacco campaigns” is one of the “serious” charges against the organisation. This is tantamount to the MHA working against the interests of the ­Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) alongside which the PHFI has “lobbied.” We are deeply concerned to note that the business interests affected by this government’s own anti-tobacco policy (announced in the National Health Policy 2017) may be influencing the MHA’s actions, which effectively destroy the health strategy of the MoHFW.

The lack of due process in the MHA’s FCRA licence cancellation metho­dology thus contravenes the principles of natural justice.

It may be recalled that the MHA had suddenly cancelled the FCRA licence of the Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru in October 2016 and that, as per news­paper reports at that time, they were even labelled anti-national. Despite the MFC’s own positions on various health ­issues that differ from the two organisations mentioned in this statement, we stress that these actions are deleterious to the health of the nation.

We would also like to point out that such an action will convey a negative image of the Indian government’s commitment to healthcare across the world. It will also demoralise over 1,000 healthcare professionals whose jobs will be in jeopardy because of this MHA action.

We urge the MHA to immediately re­instate the FCRA licence of the PHFI, and that the organisation be given adequate time to respond to the allegations, so that it can continue with its work of strengthening public health across the country.

Jashodhara Dasgupta (Convenor),

Sandhya Y K (Co-convenor) on behalf of the Executive Committee of Medico Friend Circle

Updated On : 12th May, 2017

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