India bars Greenpeace from getting foreign funds

Delhi claims the NGO violated funding rules and damaged country's economic interests

NEW DELHI • India has cancelled a licence allowing Greenpeace's Indian arm to receive donations from overseas, the latest move in an ongoing battle between the environmental group and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.

India's government says the non-governmental organisation (NGO) violated rules governing foreign funding and withheld information on transactions. It also accuses it of damaging the country's economic interests by campaigning against mining and nuclear projects.

"It is yet another attempt to silence campaigns for a more sustainable future and transparency in public processes," Greenpeace India's interim co-executive director Vinuta Gopal said in a statement late on Thursday.

"The cancelling of our... registration is the government's latest move in a relentless onslaught against the community's right to dissent," Ms Gopal said.

On Thursday, the Press Trust of India news agency reported that the government had cancelled the group's foreign funding licence, citing an unnamed official from the country's Home Ministry.

The action was part of a wider crackdown - New Delhi has in recent months tightened surveillance on foreign-funded NGOs, cancelling licences.

Mr Modi's government in April suspended the watchdog's foreign funding licence and froze its domestic bank accounts, which Greenpeace said could force it to shut down.

At the time, the government said it was acting on an audit which showed the organisation had violated rules on foreign funding and had not disclosed transaction information.

The following month, however, an Indian court unfroze Greenpeace's accounts.

Greenpeace, which has been at loggerheads with the government over claims of environmental damage caused by India's heavy reliance on coal and the impact of deforestation and nuclear projects, accuses the government of waging a "malicious campaign" against it and has launched legal action.

In addition to the financial curbs, the authorities prevented one of its campaigners from leaving Delhi in January after she was placed on a suspicious persons list, and Greenpeace said in June that an Australian staff member was barred from entering the country despite holding a valid visa.

Mr Modi's nationalist government, which has been in power since last year, has cancelled the foreign funding licences of around 9,000 charities since a major crackdown began in April.

The United States-based Ford Foundation and Christian charity Caritas are also on a watch list.

Greenpeace says that almost 70 per cent of its funding is generated locally and, despite the restrictions, the watchdog has said that it will continue most of its operations.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'India bars Greenpeace from getting foreign funds'. Print Edition | Subscribe