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Vindictive, disproportionate

Over the last 50 years, CPR has made major contributions to the understanding of a range of issues that concern the country.
Last Updated 11 July 2023, 22:33 IST

The cancellation of the tax exemption status of the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) is another mortal blow dealt by the government to the Delhi-based think tank. The Income Tax (I-T) Department’s decision follows a notice it served on CPR in December last, wherein the organisation was told that it had carried out activities “not in accordance with the objects and conditions” under which it was registered. It is the latest action in a series of coercive measures that the government has taken against CPR. A few months ago, the government cancelled its FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) registration to choke the organisation of funding. Foreign donations formed about 75 per cent of the grants it received. The I-T Department alleged that the association had made payments to persons who had not filed their personal I-T Returns and raised questions over books published by the CPR being commercial in nature. CPR has explained its functioning as a non-profit and denied the validity of these allegations.

Over the last 50 years, CPR has made major contributions to the understanding of a range of issues that concern the country. It has promoted research and education and helped to analyse and formulate policy. It is among the few think-tanks in the country that can claim an international standing and reputation. Successive governments have benefited from its work. Governments on their own are not in a position to study all issues well enough for decision-making and formulation of public policy. They rely on organisations like CPR for that purpose. CPR has not allowed political, social or personal biases of any kind to influence its work. Ideally, the government should allow even organisations with divergent views and perspectives and even biases to function so that it gets to know other points of view. But the present government’s policy has been to discourage all independent views. A number of institutions have been subjected to financial pressures, adverse administrative actions and other coercive measures. The action against CPR is wrong and disproportionate by any standard.

The New Education Policy envisages interactions between Indian and global institutions. Last week, the government set up a body to fund universities and research institutions for such endeavours. At the same time, it is making life difficult for one of the country’s best research institutions. The government has taken an extremely harsh stand against all NGOs that are not ideologically aligned with it and harassed them in many ways. Many have been forced to shut down. CPR has also downsized, and its functioning has been affected. The action against CPR is not an isolated one, it is part of the prevalent ecosystem of suppression and harassment of independent views and criticism.

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(Published 11 July 2023, 18:20 IST)

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