Important questions about foreign funding to orphanages
Over the last decade, several so-called orphanages have mushroomed all over India, in particular along our Eastern Coast and in Southern India funded by foreign agencies. Some of them were established purportedly to shelter children tragically orphaned by the tsunami of December 2004.
However, of late, a host of tragic stories have emergedat alarming frequency about the abuse of children sheltered in such foreign-funded orphanages. The IndiaFacts team has been able to collate a few of them. What we found is that the pattern that emerges from such stories is disturbing, to say the least.
The common theme in all the following stories is one of foreign funding, a crucial aspect that we plead our readers not to miss or overlook.
Among the activities/programmes permitted under the Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act (FCRA) (2010) is Construction and Management of Orphanages. You can read about all activities permitted under FCRA here. The focus of this report is orphanages.
Recently, IndiaFacts carried a heart-rending story of the rape of a minor girl who was living in St. Marks Children’s Home, Palaparru village near Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. The crime is alleged to have been committed by the Warden and Part-time Pastor of that Home.
This Home, where 30 children were residing was one of the ten such orphanages run by Christian Evangelical Lutheran Ministries (CELM) which is supported by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), Wisconsin, USA.
Although the incident was covered by both local and national mainstream media, it was left only to IndiaFacts to unearth and report the aspect of foreign funding via FCRA which supported the operations of this Home in which the crime is alleged to have taken place.
It is also noteworthy that the parents of the affected girl were alive and thus technically this Home is not an orphanage, although WELS claimed to be running ten orphanages near Guntur.
After our expose on the foreign funding aspect, WELS promptly deleted its blog post which had provided its connection to St. Marks Children’s Home. Several of its webpages which discussed its relationship to orphanages near Guntur went into protected mode, for reasons unknown to us. The same was covered in a subsequent story on IndiaFacts. WELS did not respond to tweets to which it was tagged.
The Indian franchisee of WELS, viz., CELM, Guntur has not filed FC6 returns (mandated to be submitted every year) for any year post 2011-12.
In another ghastly incident which took place on June 11-12, 2014 in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu (details here, here, here ), two minor girls were raped in a Children’s Home. At that time, the orphanage sheltered 17 boys and 3 girls. The Tamil Nadu police and local administration appear to have taken swift action to bring the guilty to justice. It was also learnt that the Warden of the Hostel and a Pastor associated with the Home too were arrested. The Home was being run by Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC), apparently without proper licenses.
The trauma suffered by the victims is heart-rending. In this news report, the Tamil Nadu Tribal People’s Association, Coimbatore district convenor says that “the Home did not follow any norms of safety or hygiene.” The report also quotes the district president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association as saying that the tragic incident was because of “the result of lack of deterrent action in earlier incidents in Tuticorin, Madurai and Sattur.”
In fact, one of the reports goes beyond the specific news item and examines many aspects of Children’s Homes being run in Tamil Nadu. It becomes clear from another news item that most inmates of such foreign-funded Homes are not orphans per se, but have families.
Although the Home was in Pollachi, TELC is physically located in Thiruchirappallias this report informs us. TELC is registered as an NGO under FCRA and receives foreign funds.
Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church, Madurai Road, Thiruchirappalli received Rs. 3.5 Crore foreign funding in 2012-13. In its FC6 return filed with the Ministry of Home Affairs, it claims to have used 77 per cent of this amount towards the Welfare of Children. In that year, TELC received Rs. 1.5 Crore from Lutheran Missions Work, Hermansburg, Germany and about two crores from Churches Council for Child and Youth Care (CCCYC), Lavelle Road, Bengaluru. Now, CCCYC itself received a whopping 31 Crores in 2012-2013 and similar amounts each year from abroad, largely from Kindernothilfe e V, DusseldorferLanftrasse, Germany and also from Mission of Mercy, Colarado.
In case you are wondering how an organization in Bengaluru, India can provide foreign funding to an organization in Thiruchirappalli, India, then you must read this article on IndiaFacts.
Although this is not related to an orphanage, it has many elements common with the two stories mentioned earlier.
In another tragic incident which took place near Guntur, Andhra Pradesh in July 2011, a Pastor is reported to have allegedly sexually abused a minor girl who worked as a domestic help in his house. She was also murdered in a horrific manner. The story was covered here, here, here and here.
The Pastor belonged to the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC) which has received foreign funding via FCRA of Rs. 1.25 Crore in 2011-2012 and similar amounts in previous years.
AELC has not filed FC6 returns (mandated to be submitted every year) for any of the years post 2011-12. Not surprisingly, AELC too has received the bulk of its foreign funding from the same Churches Council for Child and Youth Care (CCCYC), Lavelle Road, Bengaluru.
Although all these incidents were reported by mainstream media, none of them covered the aspect of foreign funding to the operations or operators involved.
While the criminal justice system in our country will take care of these cases individually and will serve justice to the innocent victims, the society as a whole needs to ponder about the unifying feature of these outrageous acts.
Conscientious individuals should ponder over the following:
- In the case of innumerable number of NGOs, a one-to-one relationship exists between the NGO and its foreign donor—in other words, the NGO does not receive funds from any other foreign donor. Thus,does the foreign donor have no liability when such horrendous crimes have taken place in the premises established and supported by them? Who questions them?
- Is the rampant growth of such Children’s Homes, orphanages, and hostels signs of a healthy society?
- Are we so poor that we need foreign funds to take care of our children?
While we ponder about these questions, we also need to keep those innocent children in mind. Where is their safety and care best ensured? Common sense says that it is with their parent(s) and not with some nanny NGOs who preach Universal Love but as we see, sordid cases of child abuse frequently emerge primarily from such Nanny NGOs.