US Watches the Unfolding Saga of Greenpeace and Other NGOs in India

Greenpeace activists in Delhi highlight renewable energy in its electricity supply

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Washington, DC – The United States is aware of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s crackdown on civil society and the ongoing cancellation of the operating licenses of major international non-profit organizations.

Greenpeace said recently its charitable registration to operate in India has been revoked and the decision effectively shuts it down in India. The government of Modi previously accused Greenpeace of flouting tax laws and having an anti-development agenda. The pressure group has been working in India for 14 years and employs more than 300 people.

Asked to comment on this crackdown, a Department of State spokesperson told India America Today, “We have seen reports that Greenpeace India’s registration has been cancelled in Tamil Nadu and we are seeking clarification on this issue with the appropriate Indian authorities.”

Reiterating US support for liberty and freedom to operate, the spokesperson added, “The United States strongly believes a vibrant civil society strengthens democratic culture and gives voice for all to express their views.”

Greenpeace said it planned to challenge this latest decision. Greenpeace Interim Executive Director Vinuta Gopal said in a statement: “We are confident that we are on strong legal ground. We have faith in the legal process and are confident of overcoming this order.”

There is more than meets the eye as an analytical report in the BBC, titled, “Why India’s government is targeting Greenpeace?” made the cause crystal clear.It cited a secret report from India’s Intelligence Bureau, leaked last year, explaining why India’s government has such a beef with the environmental charity.

The BBC cited the intelligence report as saying that campaigns headed by Greenpeace and other NGOs had drained three percentage points off the nation’s annual growth rate.

Coal is the main source of power in India and is central to the BJP government’s plans to boost industrial production. While China’s use of coal has been falling steeply, helping stall world growth in CO2 emissions, India’s CO2 emissions are forecast to rise rapidly.

According to the International Energy Agency, India is set to double its coal consumption by 2035 and become the world’s largest coal importer by around 2020. Almost half of the 1,200 new coal-fired power stations proposed around the world are in India according to the World Resources Institute, said the BBC report.

Greenpeace also earned the government’s ire by its relentless attack on two of India’s corporate behemoths, Coal India and the Adani Group.

Coal India is the biggest coal company in the world and India’s fifth largest company, while the Adani Group is the third biggest coal company in world and its head, Gautam Adani, is known to be close to the Indian prime minister. According to reliable sources Adani has unrestricted access to Modi’s office and travels frequently with him on foreign trips.

Earlier in April, India cancelled the registration of nearly 9,000 foreign-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs), saying they didn’t comply with the country’s tax codes.

Reacting to that unexpected move by the Modi government, Richard Verma, the US Ambassador to India expressed concern in May about the “potentially chilling effect” of those actions by the Indian government against charities and advocacy groups.

“I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by NGOs operating in India. Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs,” said Ambassador Verma in a speech on India-US relations, according to a transcript posted on the US Embassy website.

According to sources in US administration, Washington is keeping an eye on these moves and projected figures at the international forums by the Indian government promising to cut greenhouse gases.

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