funds and projects
Over the past five years till 2020-2021, CPR has received over 140 crores for specified and unspecified projects. Of this amount, about 122 crore rupees was earmarked for specific projects or purposes – the domestic donor share was a meager 14.54 crore rupees.
Funds received only for unspecified purposes have been included in the income and expenditure statements, according to which CP’s expenditure over these five years amounted to Rs 20.21 crore. Salaries constituted the biggest chunk – over Rs 3 crore was spent on salaries of the total expenditure of Rs 4.28 crore in 2020-21.
Of the Rs 122 crore for specific purposes, the think tank has used Rs 105 crore over the past five years.
The importance of foreign contributors and of the FCRA license, which must be renewed after September 30, is evident by the pittance left over as “domestic contributions” if funding from multilateral organizations – such as Unicef, l Unesco, WHO and World Bank – is subtracted in the specified category.
In the foreign category, the main contributors come from the United States. These include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Namati, the Omidyar Network Fund, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
The Gates Foundation – which fights poverty, disease and inequality – has contributed the most with 17.32 crores over the past five years. This is still greater than the combined contribution of all national donors in the specified category. Projects funded by Gates have involved programs on sanitation, water and nutrition monitoring.
Over these five years, CP’s revenue was highest in 2018-19 at Rs 34.94 crore, falling to Rs 20.64 crore in 2020-21.
The World Bank emerged as the top contributor in the domestic category with Rs 2.11 crore, followed by Rs 1.88 crore from Unicef over the five-year period. On the other hand, the share of ICSSR receipts was only Rs 25.20 lakh.
Apart from multilateral organizations, trade union ministries such as Jal Shakti, External Affairs and Corporate Affairs, Fifteenth Finance Commission, Niti Aayog, Meghalaya Government, Population Foundation of India, HDFC Ltd, Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation and Tata Trust are also among the donors of the CPR.
CPR has conducted studies on almost every topic under the sun: health, sanitation, education, federalism, crimes against women, urbanization, climate change, environment, post-Covid challenges for governance, data protection, and more.
Unicef-funded projects focused on tracking funds from urban local bodies and mapping the Maharashtra government’s women’s safety efforts, while those from the World Bank involved studying resources water, federal governance, land acquisition litigation and census towns.
ICSSR has funded projects on citizenship mapping in Delhi; the interaction between urban citizens and the state; expansion of urban settlements; understanding homelessness; and examination of the idea of the Indian middle class.
In 2018-2019, major housing finance company HDFC donated Rs 1 crore for a study on “The State of Housing in India”. In 2019-20, Nxtra, the data center wholly owned by Bharti Airtel, sent CPR a check for Rs 69.19 lakh for a scholarship scheme.
Meanwhile, other major foreign contributors are Omidyar at Rs 9 crore, Ford Foundation at Rs 7.4 crore, Namati at Rs 6.7 crore and Flora Hewlett Foundation at Rs 5 crore. Oxfam India, whose properties were also surveyed last week, traded Rs 19.87 lakh in 2018-20.
The American company Omidyar, shareholder of Newslaundry, supported programs on land rights. A CPR project on maintaining its academic freedom and institutional soundness is also one of the projects listed by Omidyar.
Ford supported agricultural policy dialogue and increased incomes for farmers. He had previously found himself in the funding crosshairs of activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGOs, Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust.
Funds released by Namati, a legal empowerment organization in the United States, have been set aside for local programs on environmental protection policy compliance.
The CPR was born out of “frustration” with the myopic policy framework of the government in 1973. As the government continued to develop policies in response to daily challenges, VA Pai Panandiker, a former member of the planning commission, felt the need for an institution that could reflect on long-term ideas. Panandiker built an institution where economists, anthropologists, climatologists, environmental experts and political scientists could join hands and enrich policy dialogue.
CPR thinkers cherish its multidisciplinary nature. The former president of the center, PB Mehta, once said“Very often two or three sides of an argument come out of the CPR – there is no party line. If you look at our IR faculty, we have the hawks, the doves, the comrades, the opponents of the India-US nuclear deal.
And so the “repression” left some shocked. A few voices from the think tank – where communication channels are tightly guarded in line with a corporate hierarchy – apprehend that it was a “kind reminder” not to cross the line. “The institution is an integral part of the establishment at large. He works with the government and does not pretend to be a protester,” said one of them.
However, academic freedom, which CPR President Yamini Aiyar believes the center promotes, has recently been on the rise in her columns and critical comments about the government. This “increased visibility” of Aiyar and his colleagues Sushant Singh, Harish Damodaran and Sonali Verma could have irritated the government.
On the now repealed Farm Laws, Aiyar had reported how an “absent state” cannot promote market competitiveness. About India Covid responseshe said India has failed by ignoring federalism, the “first principle” of good governance.
Alumnus of the London School of Economics, Aiyar was more scathing in her column following the killing of anti-farm law protesters in Lakhimpur Kheri and the closure of meat shops during Navaratri. “Violence has a visible sanction from the state. This has encouraged traditional state actors to invoke and incite violence more openly today than in the past. She was just as frank in her views following calls for violence against Muslims at the “Dharm Sansad” in Haridwar. “The only antidote to hatred, prejudice and communal poison is a policy of genuine secularism.”
On the protests against the Agnipath reform, she wrote that the violence was the product of a “politics of hatred and bigotry”. More recently, Aiyar criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “revdi” cultural remark in an article for the Indian Express. She called the statement “a thinly disguised attempt to delegitimize the social ads of political opponents.”
In another post, Aiyar criticized Modi’s emphasis on the duty of citizens during his Independence Day speech. “This insistence on duties has been an oft-repeated call from the Prime Minister. I have nothing against a talk of citizens’ duties, indeed all citizens have duties. The challenge lies in how the terms of this discourse have been framed, stating the government’s obligation to the citizen not in terms of ‘rights’ but in terms of ‘beneficiary’ or ‘labharthi’ and hence duties in return for what the government distributes.
In a podcast in November last year, Aiyar spoke about the challenges of CPR. “You strike at the heart of the institutional challenges we all face. This is not a unique challenge for CPR. All over the world, we are going through a deep melting pot. And in that churning, inevitably, the space for sober evidence-based analysis becomes increasingly limited. Lamenting how politics are influenced by Twitter, she said: “This all puts us in a deep existential moment.”
Aiyar did not answer Newslaundry‘s requests for comments. This report will be updated if we receive a response.
Meanwhile, in his column for the Caravan, Sushant Singh wrote about the establishment’s attempt to erase the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru. “Attempts to invisibilize him exist because his personality and his influence are too powerful to be combated, other than by lies and innuendo.”
In another column, he pointed to Modi’s anti-Pakistani rhetoric and India’s unpreparedness for a two-pronged military engagement. In another article on the Indochina border crisis, he said the Modi government’s refusal to publicly accept the gravity of the situation was alarming.
It remains to be seen whether the tax investigation will have any impact on the center’s research. “The investigation seems to be just a blip. There was no communication from the establishment before or after the investigation. So I don’t think academic freedom will suffer immediately. But it can have a long-term impact,” said one researcher.