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Govt acts tough against Greenpeace India, freezes bank accounts

Last updated on: April 09, 2015 20:47 IST

In a tough action, the Government on Thursday barred Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds with immediate effect by suspending its licence for six months and froze all its accounts, alleging it has “prejudicially” affected the country's public and economic interests.

The environmental activist group was also served a notice by the government which asked why its registration should not be cancelled permanently.

The decision was taken by the Union home ministry after it was found that the NGO has “prejudicially affected the public interests and economic interests of the country in violation” of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

The foreign funding to Greenpeace India has been blocked by suspending the NGO's licence for 180 days, the ministry said. In all, the NGO's seven bank accounts were frozen, it added.

The Indian arm of Greenpeace International had received Rs 53 crore over the last seven years, according to an official.

The home ministry in its order also said that licence of Greenpeace India will be cancelled permanently if the NGO fails to make a satisfactory presentation to the government.

Reacting to the move, Greenpeace India said it will not be “cowed” down by a “campaign against dissent” and is seeking legal counsel in the matter.

It termed the government action as a “smear” campaign and vowed to continue work towards clean air, water and inclusive development in India.

Samit Aich, Executive Director of Greenpeace India, said that the MHA's repeated moves to restrict the NGO's funding and the movement of its personnel were clear attempts to "silence criticism and dissent".

In a dossier on Greenpeace India, prepared after more than six month long investigation on the activities of the NGO, the home ministry said foreign contribution was used “to influence and lobby for the formation of government policies”.

In its notice to the Greenpeace, the home ministry said it has been found that multiple transfers were made to multiple accounts including inter-account transfers from utilisation account without any intimation or permission of the government.

"The association has under reported and repeatedly mentioned incorrect amount of foreign contribution received in violation of the FCRA. The most glaring example was the foreign contribution opening balance for 2008-09. This was reported as NIL in the auditor’s certificate but was actually Rs 6.6 crore. The Greenpeace India subsequently admitted the same and claimed it to be a typographical error, which is not tenable,” it said.

The home ministry dossier said in contravention of the FCRA rules; Greenpeace was also in talks with the Aam Aadmi Party and declared the NGO's consultant Pankaj Singh as the AAP candidate from Mahaan for Sidhi Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh.

Singh subsequently resigned from Greenpeace and joined AAP to contest the elections. However, latest information indicates that he is again active in Greenpeace activity in Madhya Pradesh, the Home Ministry report said.

Referring to Greenpeace India activist Priya Pillai, who was barred by the government from travelling to the UK a few months ago, the home ministry said that intelligence reports indicated that she had planned to testify on the alleged poor state of tribal people in India and the manner in which the government had allegedly increased efforts to rob the tribal people of their rights, which is an absolutely a false allegation.

The home ministry said the NGO has incurred more than 50 per cent of the foreign contribution on administrative expenditure during 2011-12 and 2012-13 without obtaining the prior approval of the central government in violation of the FCRA rules which is also substantiated by the notice issued by the Income Tax department and subsequent payment of Rs 62.12 lakh by the Greenpeace India to IT department.

“Section 8(1)(b) of FCRA 2010 stipulates that administrative expenses shall not exceed 50 per cent of the foreign contribution received in a financial year and any expenditure of administrative nature in excess of 50 per cent shall be defrayed only after prior approval of the central government,” the home ministry said.

The ministry said the NGO has “wilfully suppressed” and not disclosed the payment of salary -- Euro 56,951.16 per annum -- by Greenpeace International to Greg Muttitt, a foreign Greenpeace activist, who worked on secondment with Greenpeace India for nearly six months.

“He was an important part of Greenpeace India strategy-making and implementing, monitoring of Greenpeace India fund distribution and guiding the planning of protests. He was paid directly by and his contact signed by Greenpeace International in violation of Section 33 of FCRA by not reporting the details in the returns filed to the government,” it said.

The home ministry has found that the Greenpeace India has shifted its functioning and activities from its registered address in Chennai to an address in Bengaluru without approval and intimation to the government in violation of the rules.

The NGO has also replaced 50 per cent or more of the executive committee members without obtaining prior approval of the Home Ministry which is also in violation of the FCRA rules.

The home ministry said Greenpeace India has also published a research report titled ‘Trouble Brewing on Indian Tea’. It claims to have identified hazardous pesticides in leading Indian tea brands, all of which are exported in large quantities to the US, UK and Europe.

The Greenpeace has not released the forensic analysis, which intelligence sources believe, was done at a private lab in some country in Europe.

“The Tea Board of India has disagreed with the above findings and sees it as an attempt to impact Indian tea exports. The anti-tea Greenpeace campaign is similar to the one against Chinese tea companies. In April 2012, Greenpeace had published a similar questionable report 'Hidden Ingredients in Chinese Tea' which had claimed to have found 29 different pesticides in 18 tea samples. It has also decided to target other commonly consumed goods such as rice, wheat etc. and highlight the abuse of pesticides in these sectors,” the home ministry dossier said.

The home ministry in its dossier said Greenpeace India invited a 10-member team of international activists (1 US, 9 Bangladeshi nationals. Nine being on tourist visa) to visit three coal block locations -- Waidhan, Mudwani and Amelia -- to conduct an environmental study on coal blocks allocated to power plants in Singrauli district in Madhya Pradesh.

Two cyber experts (both British nationals) visited Greenpeace office in Bengaluru in January 2014, upgraded its communication systems and installed sophisticated and encrypted software in its servers and computers.

The air travel expenses of the foreigners are met from the account of the Greenpeace India, it said.

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