BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
The Goa Football Association (GFA) seems to have found its way onto the Home Ministry’s web portal. One could only conjecture the reason at first glance as it seemed like it was either a mistake or an administrative lapse.
GFA appears as an organisation that no longer holds a Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration on the Home Ministry dashboard on July 3, 2023.
FCRA registration is granted to organisations receiving foreign remittances by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and there are concerns that the Government of India is using the FCRA route to curb the activities of NGOs in the country.
“GFA had applied for an FCRA license when I was the secretary and Shrinivas Dempo was president as we were then receiving funds from Australia for a youth development programme,” recollects former GFA secretary Savio Messias.
“Australia was at that time bidding to host the World Cup and boosting youth development was part of their agenda. They had presented a proposal in 2009 and GFA had accepted and started it. The FCRA license must have been applied for thereafter,” claimed Antonio Botelho, who was secretary of GFA till 2011.
“Australia used to send us money for coach education apart from deputing foreign coaches to train our own coaches. They used to send us remittances for expenses like perks to coaches, refreshments and kits to players, etc. I think the programme was discontinued thereafter,” added Savio.
Elvis Gomes took over as GFA president after Shrinivas, and according to sources in the know, in GFA, the Australia programme was discontinued and the need to renew the FCRA registration was never felt.
Section 16(1) of FCRA states: “Every person who has been granted a certificate under Section 12 shall have such certificate renewed within six months before the expiry of the period of the certificate.”
Seeing GFA in the recent list of licenses cancelled, took many in the know by surprise as there has been a rise in the list of NGOs whose FCRA licenses have been cancelled.
Political analysts and civil rights groups view this as part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s agenda to suppress organisations unfriendly or critical of it.
From the provisions stipulated to apply for the license and renewal of the same, it seems that the GFA did not apply for renewal.
“I remember receiving a letter and replying to it as secretary, but my memory is vague. I can tell you we used to get funds from AESOP, an Australian outreach programme group, which was initiated by Botelho,” recollected Welvin Menezes, secretary of GFA during the tenure of Elvis Gomes.
The GFA, apparently, goes through bouts of memory loss, but its name on the Home Ministry portal has definitely jogged the memory of some.