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Indian public health group loses permit for foreign funds

Pratibha Patil, Bill Gates, Manmohan Singh Pratibha Patil, Bill Gates, Manmohan Singh |  Photo: AP

April 22, 2017 12:27 AM

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's government has canceled permission for foreign funding for one of the country's main public health organizations, whose donors include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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It's the latest move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in cracking down on charities and nonprofits that receive funds from overseas and are often criticized for working against national interests.

Rajeev Chhibber, spokesman for the Public Health Foundation of India, said Friday that the organization received a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs saying it lost its registration to get foreign money last week. Chhibber said the Gates Foundation was among the larger donors to the group, which gets about 45 percent of its funding from overseas. Other donors include the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

The ministry had specifically asked the group to explain its spending on HIV/AIDS and anti-tobacco programs.

In a statement, Chhibber said all the programs run by the Public Health Foundation were in step with the Indian government's National Health Policy. The organization also provides technical assistance to the federal government and several state governments on several subjects including tobacco control and HIV/AIDS.

Chhibber said the organization had submitted all the required documents to the ministry. He said his group is seeking "an early resolution of the issue" and continuation of its registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

India began cracking down on foreign-funded charities after a government intelligence bureau report said economic growth was hurt when certain groups rallied communities against polluting industries.

Over the last two years it has accused the groups including Greenpeace, Amnesty International and Action Aid of providing reports "used to build a record against India and serve as tools for the strategic foreign policy interests of Western governments."

In February the government blocked foreign funding to Compassion International, a U.S.-based Christian charity, amid allegations that it was using its charity work as a front for religious conversions. The group shut down its program, which worked largely with poor children in India.

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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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