Bake sales on Instagram. Online fund-raisers involving Hollywood celebrities. Pledges of aid from companies like Mastercard and Google. A middle-of-the-night flight by a FedEx cargo plane transporting thousands of oxygen concentrators and masks.
India’s devastating surge in Covid-19 cases has galvanized corporations, nonprofit organizations and individuals in the United States into raising millions of dollars and sending medical supplies to the nation of 1.4 billion.
But a sweeping change to India’s decades-old law governing foreign donations is choking off foreign aid just when the country needs it desperately. The amendment, passed by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September with little warning, limits international charities that donate to local nonprofits.
The effect is far-reaching. Almost overnight, the amendment gutted a reliable source of funding for tens of thousands of nongovernmental organizations, or N.G.O.s, that were already stretched thin by the pandemic. It prompted international charities to cut back giving that supported local efforts — and supplemented the government’s work — in fields such as health, education and gender.
more than 22 million infections and over 236,000 deaths, but experts say the toll is severely undercounted. Medical oxygen is in short supply. Hospitals are turning away patients. Only a tiny fraction of the population has been vaccinated. Mr. Modi’s government has come under increasing criticism inside and outside the country over its handling of the second wave.
Nongovernmental organizations help provide basic health services in India, picking up the slack in a country where government spending in that area totals 1.2 percent of gross domestic product. The United States spends close to 18 percent on health care. When the pandemic first surged in India, in March 2020, Mr. Modi asked NGOs to help provide supplies and protective gear and to spread the message on social distancing.
At the same time, India’s relationship with NGOs — a catchall term for the roughly three million nonprofits working across the country, including religious, educational and advocacy groups — has occasionally been fraught.
about a quarter of India’s NGO funding — roughly $2.2 billion — came from foreign donors, according to Bain & Co., the consulting firm. The September amendment, which was met with a backlash from India’s vocal community of activists, changed the landscape drastically.
“It came into existence so quickly that there was not the kind of public input or eyes on it that could tell you why it came into existence,” said Ted Hart, the chief executive of Charities Aid Foundation of America, an Alexandria, Va., nonprofit. “It was a shock.”