The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), headed by former Finance Secretary Dr Vijay Kelkar, has been unable to gets its registration renewed under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). The name of ISI does not feature in the list of institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), published by the Ministry of Home Affairs, authorised to accept foreign donations. ISI’s renewal application status has remained as being 'under process'.
Even as ISI is urging the home ministry to clear its application, it is seeking to claim exemption from the FCRA regulations citing a gazette notification (S.O. 1492(E) dated 1 July 2011). As per the notification, "...the Central Government is of the opinion that it is necessary and expedient in the interests of the general public to exempt all bodies constituted or established by or under a Central Act or a State Act requiring to have their accounts compulsorily audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by section 50 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (42 of 2010), the Central Government hereby exempts all the said statutory bodies from the operation of all the provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (42 of 2010) with effect from the date of publication of this order in the Official Gazette."
To claim exemption from FCRA, the institute is required to be audited directly by the CAG. However, ISI states, "The accounts of ISI are annually audited by statutory audit firm appointed by CAG as well as by the Director General of Audit, Central Kolkata, under CAG."
It has also argued that it is an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoS&PI) and has the status of an institution of national importance by an Act of the Parliament.
On 15 October 2015, ISI applied for renewal of its FCRA registration. In December that year, the MHA issued guidelines for online renewal of FCRA registration. The Ministry extended the last date for submission of renewal applications to 31 May 2016. However, ISI submitted its application only on 12 July 2016. Since then its application status is shown as 'under process'.
In the meantime, ISI President Dr Kelkar wrote to Rajiv Mehrishi, Home Secretary, and to Dr TCA Anant, Secretary, MoS&PI. In his letters, written in November 2016, Dr Kelkar stated how non-renewal of FCRA registrations has adversely affected a series of events planned by ISI. "Lack of foreign funding and inability to proceed with prestigious research collaborations with foreign universities are worrisome fallouts of this impasse, adversely affecting the credibility of not only our institute but also of our country," Dr Kelkar had said in his letter.
On 29 November 2016, Col S Chakraborty, Chief Executive, ISI, in a letter to MoS&PI gave information on programmes that they had cancelled due to non-renewal of its FCRA registration. He stated, "The non-renewal of FCRA registration has adversely affected a series of events planned by ISI. For example, events like a workshop on politics and development scheduled on 19 December 2016, followed by an experiment on incentives with various local governments of Hugli district from 20 December 2016, have been organised in pursuance of the collaboration signed between ISI and University of Manchester hosted at Sampling and Official Statistics Unit. Lack of foreign funding and inability to proceed with prestigious research collaborations are worrisome fallout of the impasse."