India cracks down on Greenpeace and foreign NGOs

Government of PM Modi blocks the bank accounts of 8,975 NGOs, in a move critics say is aimed at stifling dissent.

    India's government has cracked down on hundreds of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including the environmental watchdog and lobby group, Greenpeace.

    The government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Delhi Hight Court on Tuesday that "Greenpeace violated Foreign Contribution Regulation Act", according to local PTI news agency.

    Sixty percent of the money Greenpeace receives is from ordinary citizens, not corporations or government entities. According to the law, the government has no right to block these funds

    Pranonjoy Guha Thakurta, board member, Greenpeace India Society

    Greenpeace India, which receives less than 50 percent of its funding from overseas, approached the court to challenge the government's decision to block its bank accounts after it was accused of violating rules governing international financial transactions.

    In a massive clampdown against NGOs, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recently cancelled the licenses of 8,975 organisations for allegedly failing to file annual returns.

    Pranonjoy Guha Thakurta, a board member of the Greenpeace India Society told Al Jazeera that the move was an "act of intimidation and harrassment" by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the government was treading on "shaky ground".

    "Sixty percent of the money Greenpeace receives is from ordinary citizens, not corporations or government entities. According to the law, the government has no right to block these funds," he said.

    "Greenpeace and its supporters have been agitating against the establishment of a nuclear power plant in southern India, Tamil Nadu. Greenpeace has been adgitating against government policies."

    Interests of India

    The right-wing government headed by Modi has also placed the US-based Ford Foundation on a security watch list, ordering government approval of any of its activities in the country.

    Nalin Kohli, a spokesman for the ruling BJP party, told Al Jazeera that Greenpeace was not following the provisions of the law and did not disclose how they obtained their funds.

    "The government would not take action against those who work in the interests of India or its citizens," he said.

    "This government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not see the environment and industry as inimical to each other. The environment is extremely important and we have to find solutions keeping environmental concerns as well as development and job requirements."

    Critics argue the government's decision to restrict the movement of foreign funding to local charities is an attempt to stifle the voices of those who oppose Modi's economic agenda.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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