Refrain from hounding NGOs

Refrain from hounding NGOs

The government’s scrapping of Greenpeace India’s registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) is clearly an attempt to throttle its activities and remove an impediment to the various projects the NGO has been opposing. The cancellation means that the NGO cannot avail foreign contributions and has to rely only on funds collected within India. The official reason for the clampdown alleging that Greenpeace was working against the country’s economic progress and public interest is not credible enough. After all, internationally, Greenpeace has, over the years, built a solid reputation for taking on governments and powerful sections whenever they purportedly infringed on people’s interests. If the Indian government had found Greenpeace erring in their reporting methods and in their internal accounting systems, it could have gone ahead and penalised it. But to state that there were discrepancies in how Greenpeace utilised its foreign contributions and kept secret its payment to a top activist on deputation to India and then using this as an excuse to cancel its FCRA registration is disingenuous.

Since June 2014, the BJP government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has all but persecuted Greenpeace with ferocity rarely seen under earlier administrations. Overall, the government has zeroed in on 11,000 NGOs in the country for allegedly failing to adhere to various laws, particularly the FCRA and in the manner in which they utilise their funds. It is no one’s argument that all is hunky dory in India’s non-governmental sector. There, probably, is misuse of funds and misrepresentation of their activities. But the manner in which the government is going at the NGOs gives the impression that rather than correcting and strengthening the various laws related to their functioning, officials seem to be working to decimate the organisations. 

In the case of Greenpeace, the cancellation of registration will not prevent its functioning in the country but is bound to disable its activism to some extent at least. The government could even go a step further. According to reports, the Delhi-friendly Tamil Nadu government is investigating a case against Greenpeace under the Registrar of Societies Act and if found guilty, could lose its licence to operate in India. Though NGOs have had their share of controversies and some are mere fronts for money laundering, no one can deny that these voluntary organisations have played an important role – in many cases bringing to the fore information that has helped activists organise and fight vested interests. The government should pause and re-evaluate whether it serves the larger interest of democracy by hounding NGOs, in particular Greenpeace.
DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)