INDIA Missionaries of Charity bank accounts become a political issue in India

On tweet, a “shocked” West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, denounces the freezing of the sisters’ bank accounts because of the consequences for the poor. India’s Home Minister responded that although the sisters’ application to renew their registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act was not approved, they can continue to operate until December 31. The Sisters have suspended their accounts pending a resolution of the issue.

Kolkata (AsiaNews) – The bank accounts of the Missionaries of Charity, the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (Kolkata), are at the center of a political row in India.

This morning West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted that “The Union Ministry has FREEZED ALL BANK ACCOUNTS of Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa in India” on Christmas Day.

Ms Banerjee, considered one of the most influential opponents of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wrote that she was “shocked” by the decision, which left “22,000 patients and staff”. [. . .] without food or medicine.

Later that evening, the Union Home Office issued a statement clarifying the matter. He noted that the Missionaries of Charity’s application to renew their registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) had not been approved on December 25.

The legislation, which regulates foreign contributions to Indian charities, was tightened in 2020 by the Modi government, creating difficulties for many international organizations operating in India.

In its press release, the ministry specifies that the accounts of the Sisters of Charity have not been frozen, but that “unspecified negative entries have been noted”; in the meantime, the existing registration will remain in place until December 31, 2021.

As a precaution, the Missionaries of Charity have decided to suspend their accounts until the matter is resolved.

More broadly, Catholic charities face growing obstacles amid accusations by Hindu nationalists against Catholic organizations allegedly involved in “conversions”.

The issue of bank accounts follows an investigation launched almost three weeks ago in Gujarat against an orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity, following a visit by an official of the National Commission for the Protection of Children’s Rights (NCPCR).

The charge in this case was that of forcing the girls of the establishment to “convert”, a charge which the Sisters of Mother Teresa categorically deny.

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