Following the Modi government’s decision to freeze Greenpeace India’s accounts and suspend its license to raise foreign funds, Greenpeace India hits out at the Government calling it “a strong arm tactics to clamp down on dissenting voices in civil society“
Here is the full text of the Greenpeace response:
The government has launched an all out attack on Greenpeace. Not only has it launched a smear campaign, but also blocked foreign and domestic accounts to attempt to stop the campaigns that Greenpeace runs.
The MHA has acted to stop Greenpeace India’s access to foreign funds and has even blocked some domestic bank accounts. The Delhi High Court in January had ordered that Greenpeace India be allowed to access funds sent by Greenpeace International. The court had also held that the MHA action to stop funds from Greenpeace International was ‘untenable’.
The MHA’s repeated moves to restrict our funding and the movement of our personnel are clear attempts to silence criticism and dissent. Instead of pursuing such diversionary tactics, the Government’s commitment to ‘sustainable and inclusive development’ is better met by actually engaging with different viewpoints and solutions that are being offered. As an organisation registered to receive foreign funds we have been and will continue to remain transparent and in compliance of the FCRA.
1. What does this mean for Greenpeace India? Is Greenpeace India blacklisted/ shutting down?
This means that GP India’s permission to receive money from overseas is currently suspended. It does not mean that GP India itself has been shut down or will have to shut down. GP India gets nearly 70% of its income from domestic donations and will continue to operate on those funds even as it fights the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) suspension.
Greenpeace believes this is an escalation of the intimidation campaign that started with a “leaked” Intelligence Bureau report in June last year. It is the government using strong arm tactics to clamp down on dissenting voices in civil society. We have been vindicated in our position more than once in the courts. In fact, the Delhi HC held that the actions of the MHA in the Priya Pillai case were arbitrary and the charges against Greenpeace India were misconceived.
We will not only challenge the Ministry of Home Affairs in courts, but also continue to campaign fearlessly on the issues we work on.
We work in India to ensure that this generation and future generations have clean air, safe food, standing forests, community rights are implemented and the threat of climate change is addressed. We will continue to work on this
2. Have Greenpeace India’s domestic accounts been frozen as well?
Some of Greenpeace India’s domestic accounts have been frozen as well. We believe there is absolutely no way this can be justified under the FCRA – it is an open threat to Greenpeace from the government and attempt to shut our work down. Greenpeace is receiving legal counsel and will challenge this in court.
3. How has Greenpeace India been getting its funds?
Greenpeace India raises a majority of its funding from Indians – according to our provisional fundraising figures for FY 2014-15, INR 20.76 crore was donated to Greenpeace India by 77,768 Indian citizens – accounting for nearly 70% of total income.
You can find more information here: bit.ly/1FpI0AJ
4. Are Greenpeace India’s foreign contributions illegal?
No! Greenpeace has been in operation in India since 2001 and we have followed the required norms under the FCRA and filed returns as prescribed. All the foreign grants have been deposited into the designated bank account and transfers for utilisation are made into the FCRA approved account only. Payments listed by the FCRA division in their show cause notice are to third parties or reimbursements to local accounts which is within the law.
4. Why does Greenpeace India need foreign contributions?
Greenpeace is a global organisation that works on environmental protection and social justice. Greenpeace has over 40 offices across the world. The scale of the environmental challenge that we face is massive and requires a massive response. We live in a globalised world where, for better or worse, billions of dollars flow into the country by way of foreign investment. Much of this goes to activities that have serious environmental impacts. In such a scenario, it is hypocritical for the government to single out the relatively meagre amounts of foreign money that flow to legitimate organisations.
6. Why does Greenpeace India involve foreign activists in its campaigns?
We live in a globalised world and Greenpeace is a global organisation working for a safe and sustainable future for the planet. Environmental and social justice issues today are also global issues. Just as governments and corporations seek support and also provide learnings to other countries or branches of multinational companies – so does Greenpeace share skills and information across its offices. It is absurd that the government questions this.
7. Why is Greenpeace India being called a threat to economic security, why has the government accused you of ‘protest creation’?
Greenpeace envisages a dream of a clean, green, healthy India, where every citizen has equal rights. Our campaigns strive to ensure that the development model followed is holistic and sustainable. Calling this “protest creation” or a threat to economic security is clearly a part of the smear campaign against Greenpeace by certain government agencies. There is no economic security in the absence of clean air, water, food and a liveable planet. It is every citizen’s right to stand up and ensure that the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution are not violated – this spirit is the very basis on which our country was founded. The government clearly has a different definition of development which is heavily pro-corporate instead of being pro-people, and is seeking to dismiss any criticism of its actions as “protest creation”.
8. Did Greenpeace sponsor Channel 4 journalists’ visit to Mahan forests? Did they illegally use an unmanned flying vehicle for shooting?
This is one of the many lies in the MHA report. In a response to Greenpeace, Hugo Ward, director of the program from Channel 4 denied the allegation. Reproduced below is the content of the email:
“Unreported World is a critically acclaimed television series funded entirely by Channel 4. It is false to suggest that the trip made last year by our team was arranged or funded by Greenpeace.
The documentary in question is a balanced exploration of the impact of the Indian government’s drive to help the country’s development through widespread electrification. It includes an interview with Ramakant Tiwari, the CEO of Mahan Coal Corporation, Greenpeace activists and local villagers, many of whom have benefited from the recent arrival of electricity to their homes.
The documentary is freely available online and we urge your readers to watch it before making up their own mind about the issues it explores.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhoWM9ju8_U
9. Did Greenpeace sponsor Pankaj Singh, when he contested elections from the anti corruption Aam Aadmi Party? Does Greenpeace have any links with AAP?
Greenpeace has no political affiliations. Pankaj Singh had resigned before contesting elections. Greenpeace had nothing to do with funding or in any way supporting his campaign in Singrauli.
Greenpeace does not endorse any political party or political candidates, nor does it donate money to or accept money from political parties. This applies equally to AAP, BJP or Congress. We do brief all political parties and their representatives on the issues that we work on.
10. Has Greenpeace India transferred money from the FCRA designated account to FCRA utilisation account, and from there to five other bank accounts, in violation of FCRA rules?
Our auditors have assured us that we have not violated any FCRA rules. We will be reiterating this in our response to the MHA notice. Greenpeace has been in operation in India since 2001 and we have followed the required norms under the FCRA and filed returns as prescribed. All the foreign grants have been deposited into the designated bank account and transfers for utilisation are made into the FCRA approved account only. Payments listed by the FCRA division in their show cause notice are to third parties or reimbursements to local accounts which is within the law.
11. Greenpeace engaged in political activities in violation of section 9 by using foreign contribution for foreigners to lobby for and influence the Indian government policies. It invited foreign activists like Emma Rachel Tranquility Gibson (UK national) for handling conflicts, prioritization and difficult decisions and her given task was Election Project as mentioned in terms of reference for her job.
We have no idea what the MHA is referring to – Emma Gibson worked with GP India for a few months, however she was not in charge of any so-called Election Project. In fact GP India did not then and does not now have any such Election Project. This appears to be another case of the MHA twisting or outright manufacturing facts to mislead the public.
13. Greenpeace International UK took very keen interest in promoting the growth of Greenpeace India Society ground level protest creation activities having sent 13 foreigners (9 UK, 3 US and one Australian nationals, all subsequently black listed for violating Visa rules), to train and equip Indian activists in protest creation. However, despite objections the flow of Greenpeace foreign ‘experts’ continued up to September 2014.
All foreign nationals who have worked with GP India have had necessary visas. Greenpeace, like any global organization, shares skills and learns from experiences in different parts of the world. We don’t believe that it is a crime for people to exchange ideas and meet on issues that are of common interest.
It is laughable that the MHA refers to protest creation experts coming from abroad, if anything we Indians have a wealth of history in protesting injustice and in non violent civil disobedience. This is just more paranoia from the MHA. In this time and age, the nature of issues raised by the MHA is antiquated and not becoming of a democracy like India.
14. What about the issue of high salaries being disbursed to individuals? Is this against the objects of the charity?
Greenpeace believes that it should be in a position to pay people an amount that is line with what other international NGOs pay in India. We believe that good talent should also be able to work on issues of environment and social justice and we like to make this possible. However, we ensure that there is parity between the amount paid to the Executive Director and the lowest paid employee in the organization. Our directors and senior staff get paid at the lowest end of the market spectrum to keep parity within the staff in the organization.
Greenpeace believes that the issues the MHA raises on salaries and consultancies are absurd as it does not substantiate how this is a violation of the FCRA.
14. Who is Greg Muttit and why was he paid Euro 56951.16 per annum?
Greg Muttitt was an international colleague who was in India for a short period of time on a valid work visa. Greenpeace India has not made any payment to Greg Muttit, except to reimburse his travel, stay and related expenses in India. His salary of euro 56k approximately, was borne by Greenpeace International and not by Greenpeace India as he was their employee. There is no violation of sec 33 of the FCRA, as all the expenses here have been booked, included in our books and reported as required.
15. Has Greenpeace underreported and repeatedly mentioned the incorrect amount of the foreign contributions received so far? The MHA has alleged that the opening balance of one account for 2008-2009, which was reported as nil in the auditor’s certificate was actually Rs 6,60,31,783.
This was a typographical error that was made in the hard copy submitted and we have admitted to it. However, both in the online statement made to the FCRA authorities and also in the hard copy of the closing statement, we have shown the correct amount of INR 6,60,31,783. This is a clear indication that we were not trying to conceal anything. This is another example of the MHA willfully misrepresenting facts.