Rana Ayyub said on the Ketto page of the fundraiser, “As far as the foreign donations are concerned, we had decided to tie-up with an Indian NGO with FCRA that could help us provide medical equipment to hospitals in rural India, but owing to restrictions on physical movement during the pandemic and the lockdowns, we have not been able to find a suitable donor to trust to channelize the benevolence.”
She added, “While we were talking to prospective NGOs, a malicious campaign was unleashed on social media along with hit jobs by propaganda websites targeting our relief work and the donations from foreign donors. As a journalist who values her integrity and the trust placed by my readers and followers, we have always made sure that I and my team stay on the right side of the law and be compliant with the extant Indian tax and regulatory laws.”
“To make sure we do not cause inconvenience to the donors and us, I have decided to refund all contributions from foreign donors back to those who donated. Although it will lead to a great setback to our relief work, we are taking this step to ensure absolute transparency. It is unfortunate that in these trying times when this donation could have helped thousands of needy, we had to take this decision. We will continue working with whatever funds we have received from donors in India,” stated Rana Ayyub.
The fundraiser ended on the 28th of May, 2021. A social media user who goes by the username @parixit111 on Twitter had raised concerns about the possible illegality of the fundraiser. He had posted a receipt by Ketto. It was clearly mentioned that the funds would go to a person’s account, and the donations are not eligible for a tax deduction that means there is no registered Trust or Organization. Ayyub was accepting the funds in her personal account.
The FCRA laws mention clearly that in order to receive foreign funds, one has to either register her organization and get an FCRA certificate or one has to receive prior permission from relevant authorities. Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani has also come under the scanner for making an appeal for donations to a particular NGO.
Furthermore, according to the recent amendments in FCRA laws, no FCRA registered organization can collect foreign funds for a non-FCRA organization. We had reached out to Ketto for a comment on the allegations of illegality but have not received any response.
Legality of earlier fundraisers not clear
Incidentally, this was not the first fundraiser that Rana Ayyub organized on Ketto. She has organized at least 2 fundraisers previously. One was for relief work in Bihar, Maharashtra, and Assam. That fundraiser collected just over Rs. 68 lakhs. The page of the other fundraiser has been removed by Ketto for reasons unknown to us.
When one clicks on the link for the fundraiser that was shared by Rana Ayyub at the time, it says that the page is not available.
The link to the fundraiser shared by Rana Ayyub, now deleted
The other fundraiser ended on the 25th of September, 2020. That fundraiser had received contributions from abroad as well. The most generous donation for that was £2000. There were contributions worth $1500 as well. It is very likely that these two fundraisers before the current one suffered from the same potential irregularities as her most recent one, although one could not say it for certain.
Ketto page of one of her earlier fundraisers
No clarification has come from her end. Instead, Rana Ayyub has chosen to defend herself by throwing back accusations of bigotry, without any basis in fact.