Indian govt starts another round war with Greenpeace

Gp

In another round of war with NGOs, Government on Thursday blocked Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds by suspending its licence, freezed its seven bank accounts and served a show cause notice why its registration for receiving overseas donations should not be cancelled.

The two notices – suspension of licence for taking foreign donations and show cause notice – issued by Union Home Ministry cited at least nine deviations from law and said it has satisfactory “evidence in its possession” that Greenpeace’s use of foreign funds has “prejudicially affected” public interest and country’s economic interest.

The suspension of licence is for 180 days but Greenpeace will have to reply to the notice to show cause why its registration should not be cancelled in 30 days.

The action against Greenpeace comes against the backdrop of Narendra Modi government’s uneasiness with NGOs, as it believes that many of them were involved in activities that are stalling India’s development through foreign-funded protests. Previous UPA government also had an uneasy relation with NGOs, articulated in then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks on dollar fuelling anti-nuclear protests in Kudankulam.

Greenpeace was facing the brunt in the past over one year with Intelligence Bureau blaming it for “raising obstacles” to India’s coal-based energy plans, blocking foreign funds from Greenpeace International and Climate Works Foundation and offloading of Priya Pillai, who was headed to London to address UK MPs. In blocking funds and Pillai cases, the Centre was defeated in court.

A senior Home Ministry official claimed that Greenpeace India received Rs 53 crore as foreign funds in past seven years. A dossier prepared by Home Ministry after its investigation also had details from the IB report.

An inquiry, which was spread over six months, by Home Ministry’s Foreigners Division, has found that the NGO has concealed details of bank accounts to which foreign funds were transferred. While it had clearance for FCRA designated account and an utilisation account, Greenpeace opened five other accounts for using foreign funds.

The notices said Greenpeace violated FCRA provisions by not intimating the government about these five accounts though NGOs are allowed to open multiple accounts and inform within 15 days of its opening.

It also carried out multiple money transfers to multiple accounts, including inter-account transfers from the utilisation account intimated to the government.

Another charge was under-reporting and repeated mention of incorrect amount of foreign contribution to the government.

“The most glaring example being foreign contribution opening balance for 2008-09, which was reported as NIL in auditor’s certificate but was actually Rs 6,60,31,783. The Greenpeace India subsequently admitted the same and claimed it to be a typographical error, which is not tenable,” the notice said.

It also said the NGO “wilfully” suppressed and not disclosed” the payment (for five and half months at a rate of Euro 56,951.16 per annum) made to Greg Muttit, a foreign Greenpeace activist, by Greenpeace International for working for its Indian arm. “He was an important part of Greenpeace India’s strategy making and implementation, monitoring fund distribution and guiding the planning of protests,” it said.

It also incurred more than 50 per cent of foreign contribution on administrative expenditure during 2011-12 and 2012-13 without obtaining government permission.

Shifting of its office from Chennai to Bengaluru without informing government also irked the government as it was mentioned in the notice, saying it was against FCRA.

The registered office of the society as per FCRA database is in Chennai “but this office is for namesake only and is used for storing old records. All its activities are being carried out from 60, Wellington Street, Richmond Town, Bengaluru.”

Funding of legal costs for not only seeking bail but also filing writ petitions, paying salary of employees of Greenpeace Environment Trust, which is a transfer of foreign funds, and replacing more than 50 per cent of executive committee members without obtaining prior govt approval were also cited in the notice as deviation of law. (Article ENDS)

TimeLine

Sep 24-27, 2014 – On-site inspection of records and accounts by Home Ministry

Nov 28, 2014 – Inspection report served on Greenpeace inviting comments on Ministry’s observations

Dec 20, 2014 – Greenpeace India submits its response

Apr 9, 2015 – Union Home Ministry issues notices

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 10, 2015)

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