BJP-led government targets NGOs, cancels Greenpeace’s FCRA license

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The BJP-led government has decided to crack down hard at the NGO – Greenpeace. In its latest move, the Greenpeace India’s registration has been cancelled under FCRA, a senior Home Ministry official while announcing the decision told reporters . The crackdown on Greenpeace was on the cards as the government has been closely monitoring its funding in recent times.  The decision would mean that the NGO will not be able to receive from abroad the funds which are up to 30 per cent of its overall cost of its operations.

The Home Ministry is likely to inform the Delhi High Court about its decision as and when a case related to curbs on Greenpeace India is listed for hearing. Greenpeace India has about 340 people working with it.

The decision of the Home Ministry came five months after it suspended its licence under FCRA for 180 days. It had also frozen its seven bank accounts, alleging the environmental group was working against the country’s economic progress and public interest. “The central government hereby suspends the registration under FCRA, 2010 of association Greenpeace India Society including its branches and units, for a period of 180 days,” a Home Ministry order had said on April 9.

The government had cited alleged violation of norms by the NGO by opening five accounts to use foreign donations without informing the authorities concerned. While suspending its registration under the FCRA, government had also said the NGO under-reported and repeatedly mentioned inaccurate amounts of its foreign contributions.

Greenpeace termed the government action as an attempt to “silence campaigns” and said it will not be deterred. “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, said Vinuta Gopal, interim co-Executive Director of Greenpeace India, in a statement.

“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 added.

“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,” the Greenpeace official said.

Hozefa Merchant, the Greenpeace Campaigner, said the government action will not affect the organisation much financially as 70 per cent of funds are generated domestically. Priya Pillai, Greenpeace activist who was earlier in January prevented from travelling to UK, said the government has been cracking down on her 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 UK where she was to address British parliamentarians.

The Delhi High Court later overturned the action by the Home Ministry and Pillai’s “offload” passport stamp was expunged in May.

The Centre 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, FCRA licence of at least 11,000 NGOs were cancelled by the government for violating various provisions of FCRA.

In April, 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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