Exclusive: Activist Priya Pillai speaks on Greenpeace crisis in India

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Greepeace member Priya Pillai

Nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) have played a vital role in India’s development. However, recently many NGOs have come under the government scanner over The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violations.One such NGO, Greenpeace India is facing a shutdown situation in India because of the government’s clamp down, terming it as anti-national. In exclusive interview with Tehelka, Greepeace member Priya Pillai talks about the difficult situation the organisation is faced with.

1. Why has Greenpeace decided to shutdown its operation in India?
A: We decided to shutdown the operation because of the government’s order to freeze many of our bank accounts. We don’t have the money to pay our rent and the salary of 340 employees.

2. What do you think is the reason behind this step taken by the government?
A: It is simply a political game. The government doesn’t want any opposing voices. This government has turned out to be a government of the rich and powerful.

3. How do you react to the opinion that says NGOs are now turning anti-national?
A: I still don’t know what crime we had committed and I don’t understand how speaking on behalf of the poor people is anti-national. They are also citizens of this country and the government must also listen to their voices too.

4. Has Greenpeace committed any FCRA violations? What happens to Greenpeace bank accounts?
A: We followed maximum transparency in our transactions and we also publish the details of our accounts on our website. Actually, we get 30 percent of our income through FCRA and 70% through our supporters in India. The RBI had issued a notice to all banks for stopping Greenpeace from opening accounts. We are not even allowed to use our domestic accounts.

5. Do you get any official order from the Director of Greenpeace to shutdown its operation in India?
A: Yesterday, we had a staff meeting and our executive director Samit Aich told us that we have no other option but to shutdown. It was a very emotional moment for many of us. Most probably, we will be shutting down our offices in India within a month.

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