A decision by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to donate $3.6 million to Indian laboratories and research agencies to assist in countering the COVID-19 pandemic could run into delays, given that the agency has been placed on a “watch list” since December 2019.
The U.S. Embassy issued a release saying the CDC would commit $3.6 million as an “initial tranche of funding” to India’s response to the pandemic.
Since early January, the CDC’s India Office has been collaborating with sub-national and national government institutes to support the COVID-19 response in India.
It added that the money would go towards increasing “laboratory capacity for COVID-19 (SARC-CoV-2) testing, molecular diagnostics and serology”.
Significantly, the strictures followed an inquiry into the CDC’s funding of an “unapproved” Indian laboratory in Manipal for work on the Nipah virus, considered a “potential bio-weapon”.
The U.S. Embassy, from which the CDC operates, did not disclose specifics of which agencies would be the recipients of the funding.
However, the funding would not go to any one agency, and would be spread over a number of technical partners working with the agency based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Any NGO or association has to register themselves under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, to receive foreign funds.
Foreign donors can directly send funds to the NGOs and institutes registered under the FCRA; but if a foreign donor has been placed on the watch list or in the “prior permission” category, the donor cannot directly send money without clearance by the MHA.
The MHA informs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which asks banks to look out for any transaction to the accounts of the beneficiary NGOs from the foreign donor on the watch list.