New Delhi: Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the licence of Public Health Foundation of India under the Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act, 2010.
This means, the NGO will not be able to get any foreign funding, including that from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), which is one of its biggest donors.
Home Ministry sources said the FCRA licence of PHFI was cancelled on the grounds of misuse of funds received from foreign donors. Sources said the funds received for health research were being diverted.
Commenting on the development, PHFI said, “Certain observations have been made by the Ministry on utilisation of funds related to PHFI’s projects on tobacco, HIV/AIDS and its financial reports. PHFI has submitted the requisite information and documents to the MHA on the observations raised in the notification and provided the needed clarifications.”
PHFI said it is expecting an early resolution of the issue.
"Our work is fully in confluence with the ministry of health and India's national health policy. Regarding the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, most of our funding is to provide technical support to the ministry on projects that the ministry itself wanted. We do not act on behest of the Foundation. If the government wants to fund us, or wants us to provide technical assistance through other funding, we will do so," said Sreenath Reddy, President, PHFI.
Launched by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006, PHFI provides technical assistance to Central and State Governments in several areas of engagement including HIV prevention, access to drugs, tobacco control, immunization, environmental health, universal health coverage, public health cadre development and capacity building of primary care physicians. Many of these activities were in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
“The PHFI focuses on broad dimensions of public health that encompass promotive, preventive and therapeutic services, many of which are frequently lost sight of in policy planning as well as in popular understanding,” states the PHFI website.
Activities of BMGF on the health front in India had long been critiqued by the RSS-linked Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM).
Ashwani Mahajan, the national co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch said he was glad to know about the development. “Public Health Foundation of India is interlinked with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We are expecting the government will take action against the bigger player as well.”
News18 had earlier reported that SJM was preparing a white paper on BMGF, questioning the philanthropic organisation’s influence on India’s health policies.
In its draft paper, the Manch has alleged that BMGF has business links with some of the pharmaceutical companies that the government is planning to engage with for its pan-India immunisation drive.
“The idea is to enable the government in making an informed decision with regards to public health,” said one of the experts working on the white paper.
A statement released by BMGF said,"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a charitable donor organization that has been working in India for more than 13 years, in collaboration with the Government of India on aligned priorities. The foundation funds a variety of partners to undertake charitable objectives and requires these partners to comply with all applicable laws, including the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act."