Indian bureaucrat suspended over renewal of Zakir Naik’s NGO license


New Delhi: After the central government suspended four Home Ministry officials, including joint secretary G K Dwivedi, for alleged lapses over the issuing of licence to Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s NGO, senior officials have expressed their resentment over the punishment meted out. Four Joint Secretaries in the Home Ministry reportedly registered with Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi their protest over suspension of Joint Secretary G.K. Dwivedi. ”Some officials have met the Union Home Secretary on the issue (over the weekend),” a source said.

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Sources, however, indicated that Mehrishi, while hearing the agitated officers on Saturday, justified the action against Dwivedi. He stated that Dwivedi had been instructed several times not to process any clearance to IRF pending an inquiry into its FCRA+ dealings. With the NGO's licence renewal still having gone through, the home secretary argued that there was valid ground for holding the joint secretary responsible for "oversight and lack of supervision".
Dwivedi, along with two under-secretaries and a section officer, was suspended after IRF's registration was 'erroneously' renewed through the FCRA online renewal system, even as it is probed for FCRA violations and faces prospects of a ban under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

The home ministry has also ordered that a departmental inquiry against Dwivedi be conducted by additional secretary M Gopal Reddy, which has further upset some of Dwivedi's colleagues.

"Dwivedi is an honest officer who has spearheaded the reforms in FCRA monitoring system to bring in greater transparency. He put in place e-tourist visa regime for 150 nations and operationalised long-term visa and citizenship for minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Now the officer has not only been suspended for no direct involvement in IRF licence renewal but even his integrity is being doubted," noted joint secretary Kumar Alok, who met Mehrishi along with colleagues Hitesh K Makwana, Dilip Kumar and Satpal Chouhan on Saturday.

"If Dwivedi had to favour IRF, why would he initiate a probe into its FCRA dealings by sending it a standard questionnaire beforehand?" asked another officer. Explaining what may have led to the renewal, Alok said: "The officer in charge of online renewal appears to have cleared IRF's case without bothering to check the adverse list of NGOs. Unfortunately, the FCRA online system software has no provision to automatically red-flag 'suspect' NGOs".

"The power to renew FCRA licences has been delegated to the under-secretary, though all cases must be supervised by the director. The joint secretary comes into the picture only if the director finds the NGO on adverse list, and accordingly puts up the file to the higher authorities. In IRF's case, clearance was sought through e-mail from the concerned director. So, it is intriguing that while the joint secretary was suspended, the director, who was sitting on the e-mails for a good three months, was not touched," an officer pointed out.

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