Recent developments with respect to renewal of IPH’s FCRA registration

The Institute of Public Health Bengaluru (IPH) has been a pioneer in cutting-edge applied research and public health training programmes in health systems and health policy in Karnataka. IPH is registered as a legal entity under the Karnataka Society Registration Act. It has been working for over ten years to further health status of communities in Karnataka and India. Recently IPH commemorated a decade of work with a campaign: #10yearsofIPH (click here to read/watch a short video of our work).

What does IPH do?

We have received national and international recognition for our work on various aspects of strengthening health systems, enhancing health equity and contributing to better health policies in Karnataka and India.

  • Research: Researchers from IPH have published data-driven and evidence-based research papers in journals of national repute including Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, Indian Journal of Medical Research (of the ICMR), Economic and Political Weekly etc., as well as international peer-reviewed scientific journals such as the Lancet, British Medical Journal and various others.
  • Teaching public health: Faculty at IPH teach public health courses in various reputed public health institutions in Karnataka and other states, as well as provide highly rated e-learning courses in public health across the country, especially to government health staff, as well as to students in various countries in Africa and South Asia. IPH’s blended learning programme has been featured at various international workshops as a prime example of well-designed and relevant public health content.
  • Various public health achievements: Some of our major achievements over the past 10 years include training more than 1,800 government officials, facilitating public health policy reforms such as, a ban on gutka, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and hookah in Karnataka. In recognition of IPH’s scientific leadership, many faculty members of IPH have been nominated as members of state- and national level committees advising governments such as the National Health Systems Resource centre, Karnataka State Health Systems resource Centre, Karnataka Knowledge Commission, Karnataka State Anti Tobacco Cell, and an Official Delegation of Government of India for the Seventh Session of Conference of Parties under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

What is FCRA and what is IPH’s stand on FCRA?

FCRA is an Indian law that regulates and monitors the flow of voluntary contributions/grants from non-Indian sources to NGOs in India. It is managed by the Home Ministry. It is the law of the land and IPH respects this law. Since February 2010, IPH has been registered under this law and has complied with all requirements of this law till date. This is a matter of public record.

What are the recent developments related to IPH and FCRA?

It appears that we have become victim of our success. In the end of October (2016), we were informed through a one-line email from the FCRA authority of refusal to renew our FCRA registration. In November 2016, a newspaper report carried in The Times of India labeled us as “anti-national”. This was a rude shock for us at IPH as we have not engaged in ANY activity remotely related to weakening the government or the State. In contrary, IPH’s work is widely held up within the medical and public health community as being an example of close collaboration with several state and national government agencies, which in turn have acknowledged and appreciated our work in public health.  

Why does IPH need foreign funds?

IPH works on health research, designing cutting-edge public health training programmes and in working closely with Governments  and communities to improve healthcare. IPH competes with leading research organisations and Universities across the world in obtaining competitive research grants. While we also work with various Indian funding agencies, our research requires us to work with leading researchers and academic organisations across several countries. In fact, across various scientific disciplines, international research collaboration is favoured and encouraged in order to advance science and policy. While IPH does not solely rely on foreign funds, this is an important source of research funding for the Institute as is the case with any public health or scientific research institute in the country or elsewhere.

Why is IPH being denied FCRA registration?

Unfortunately, we have not been provided ANY reason for the refusal to renew our FCRA registration. On repeated emails and formal inquiries, no reason has been provided yet and we continue to sincerely appeal to the Government to provide us with reasons for this refusal.

In the lack of any reason forthcoming, we are forced to believe that vested industry interests could have played role in maligning and misrepresenting IPH’s work. Conveying our concerns, we have made a sincere evidential appeal to concerned authority adducing facts and figures about IPH’s public health activities over time. Unfortunately, this appeal was also denied without providing any information on the reasons.

How has the FCRA registration refusal affected IPH?

We are currently in an acute financial crisis following the refusal. Many staff are taking voluntary salary cuts to ensure we are able to save existing resources. Later this month, with a heavy heart, we will have to let go of over half of our staff, a vibrant and passionate group of young and committed public health professionals due to this.

How can I help or support IPH and its work?

In this tough time, we request you to stand with us and support us to tide this crisis and come out stronger. We value your support now more than ever and hope you will help us in these difficult times. If you would like to make a financial contribution to help IPH tide over this crisis, visit support us page 

What next? And why support IPH?

With no other way to go forward, we have appealed to the Karnataka High Court (see article in Economic Times). We shall not allow the industry or any misunderstanding/mischaracterisation of our work to affect our work in strengthening health systems in India.

Encouraging academia and building scientific temper is an important principle enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Academic and research organisations such as IPH are an important part of a strong health system, producing good quality research and contributing data and evidence on strengthening public health. The world-over, there is a recognition that well-designed and relevant research is an important contributor to strengthening health policy.

We strive to continue working closely in contributing to public health in India. And given our confidence in our work and a clear conscience, we believe this shall pass. Meanwhile we appeal to friends, colleagues and well-wishers to #StandwithIPH.