New Delhi, April 20: The government has revoked the registration of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), an NGO funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, under the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act over alleged misuse of foreign funds for anti-tobacco lobbying, in violation of FCRA norms.
The home ministry alleged PHFI had opened multiple accounts without disclosing it to the ministry, possessed two PAN cards and also misreported the foreign donations received in three years.
According to a home ministry official, PHFI received around Rs 43 crore for tobacco lobbying, which it misrepresented as 'research grants' in its FCRA returns. The officer added that an NGO was not permitted to lobby for tobacco control, which could only be done by an entity as a public relations company that must pay due taxes.
Notably, the PHFI has been collaborating with a range of institutions, including the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to improve public health in India and advance global public health.
The RSS-backed Swadeshi Jagran Manch had recently alleged a nexus between the Gates Foundation and big pharma and its “influence” on health policymaking.
PHFI President K Srinath Reddy was quoted by PTI as saying, "We have submitted all relevant documents and information to the ministry and are now waiting for a response.”
After the NDA government came to power in May 2014, FCRA licenses of around 20,000 NGOs have been cancelled by the Home Ministry. Of these, the FCRA licenses of over 9,500 NGOs were cancelled in 2015. Among them were senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Indira Jaising’s NGO, Lawyers Collective (LC), Greenpeace, and Teesta Setalvad-run Sabrang trust.
According to the PHFI website, they include Infosys Foundation, HT Parekh Foundation, HCL Corporation, Rohini Nilekani, Reliance Industries, GMR Projects Pvt. Ltd. The PHFI claimed that the chairman of the executive committee of its governing body is Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy and members include former deputy chairman of planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Headed by noted public health expert K Srinath Reddy, PHFI was launched by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 which provides technical assistance to Central and State Governments in several areas ranging from HIV prevention, access to drugs, tobacco control and immunization to environmental health, universal health coverage, public health cadre development and capacity building of primary care physicians.