Government blocks foreign funds for Greenpeace India

New Delhi, Sep 4 (IANS) In yet another crackdown on NGOs, the government on Thursday cancelled the registration of Greenpeace India under the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA) for its activities which allegedly hampered country’s economic growth.

Terming the action the “government’s latest move in a relentless onslaught against the community’s right to dissent” and “yet another attempt to silence campaigns for a more sustainable future”, Greenpeace India said it will not be deterred.

Greenpeace India’s registration under FCRA has been cancelled, a senior home ministry official told reporters here.

The decision would mean that the NGO will not be able to receive from abroad the funds, which are up to 30 percent of its overall cost of its operations.

The decision came five months after the home ministry suspended the NGO’s licence under FCRA for 180 days, and also froze its seven bank accounts, alleging the environmental group was working against the country’s economic progress and public interest.

The government had cited alleged violation of norms by the NGO by opening five accounts to use foreign donations without informing the authorities concerned, and also accused the NGO of under-reporting and repeatedly mentioning inaccurate amounts of its foreign contributions.

In response, Greenpeace India interim co-executive director Vinuta Gopal said: “The cancelling of our FCRA registration is the government’s latest move in a relentless onslaught against the community’s right to dissent. It is yet another attempt to silence campaigns for a more sustainable future and transparency in public processes.”

“Cutting access to our foreign funding may be a desperate attempt to get us to cease our work but the MHA probably didn’t count on our having an amazing network of volunteers and supporters who have helped us continue our work despite the government crackdown.

“Since the majority of our funding comes from Indian citizens, most of our work can indeed continue,” Gopal said in a staement.

“In fact, we are responding to this latest melodrama by launching a new creative online campaign and are confident that people will show they are ready to fight back in style, and send a clear message to those in power: you can’t muzzle dissent in a democracy.”

Hozefa Merchant, a Greenpeace campaigner, said the government action will not affect the organisation much financially as 70 percent of funds are generated domestically.

Activist Priya Pillai, who was in January prevented from travelling to Britain, said the government has been cracking down on the NGO “vengefully” but they will not be deterred.

Pillai was offloaded from a London-bound flight by immigration officers in New Delhi airport in January to prevent her from travelling to London where she was to address British parliamentarians. The Delhi High Court later overturned the home ministry action and Pillai’s “offload” passport stamp was expunged in May.

The government had in April blocked Greenpeace India’s bank accounts, following which the environmental group had to seek interim relief from the Delhi High Court.

Since last one year, the FCRA licence of at least 11,000 NGOs were cancelled by the government for violating various provisions of the law.

In April, the government ordered that funds coming from the US-based Ford Foundation should not be released by any bank to any Indian NGO without mandatory permission from the home ministry.

A crisis response campaigner with Greenpeace International, Aaron Gray-Block, was denied entry into India three months ago as his name figured in a home ministry “black list”.

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