Ford Foundation Head in India Moves On Amid Tensions With Government

Ford Foundation Head in India Moves On Amid Tensions With Government

Kavita N. Ramdas, the Ford Foundation's representative in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, is leaving the foundation's New Delhi office, Reuters reports.

The announcement comes as relations between the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and foreign-based charities and NGOs have become strained. In April, India's home ministry placed the Ford Foundation on a list of organizations that are not allowed to fund Indian nonprofits without government permission and launched an investigation into a $250,000 grant the foundation awarded in 2009 to a group led by activist Teesta Setalvad, who has accused Modi of failing to stop anti-Muslim rioting when he was chief minister of Gujarat state. As a result of those actions, $4 million in Ford funding for local charities has been put on hold.

Setalvad herself is facing charges of criminal conspiracy for allegedly accepting foreign contributions without registration and the prior permission of the home ministry. Since April, the ministry has canceled the licenses to receive foreign funding of more than thirteen thousand charities — a move charities say is aimed at muzzling criticism of controversial government initiatives.

Ramdas, who completed a three-year term in the regional office and is returning to New York to serve as senior advisor to Darren Walker, the foundation's president, said in a message to grantees that civil society in India had faced a "rapidly changing context and new challenges" over the past year. "The foundation has sought to navigate these times by maintaining a direct, constructive, and ongoing engagement with the Indian government," said Ramdas, adding that Ford had recently submitted an application to be registered in "keeping with the requirements of other philanthropic organizations."

"We continue to work hard to resolve these matters," wrote Ramdas, "and look forward to renewing our work with committed partners across all sectors to advance the aspirations of a new generation."

Nita Bhalla. "Ford Foundation Head in India Moves On, Hints at Discord With Government." Thomson Reuters Foundation 09/05/2015.