Facing a government crackdown on its funding, Greenpeace might have to wind up its India operations in a month, the organisation’s India head told the employees Tuesday. Greenpeace India executive director Samit Aich told his colleagues that the NGO had “one month left to fight for its survival” and that the “threat of an imminent shutdown” loomed large, a statement from the organisation said.
The message comes a month after the government suspended bank accounts of Greenpeace India, citing violations of Foreign Contributions Regulation Act. An intelligence report that had formed the basis of government action had cited a number of instances where Greenpeace was supposed to have fallen foul with the law. It had said the NGO had indulged in political activities, had campaigned, protested and lobbied against the government’s policies, and had tried to delay and place illegal obstructions to India’s energy plans. Greenpeace had termed these as a “smear campaign” against it.
Greenpeace has 340 employees in India at six locations. Aich said today’s message was to prepare them for an imminent closure of India operations. “I just made one of the hardest speeches of my life, but my staff deserve to know the truth. We have one month left to save Greenpeace India from complete shutdown, and to fight MHA’s indefensible decision to block our domestic accounts,” the statement quoted Aich as saying.
While there was only one account in which Greenpeace used to receive foreign funds, and another one in which it was allowed to transfer the money, the government had frozen five more accounts, claiming foreign money had been transferred in these as well.“Freezing of our domestic accounts was not just arbitrary but also illegal,” Aich told The Indian Express. “Nearly 70 per cent of our funds is raised within India. The government action has ensured that over 70,000 of our regular donors have no way to make contributions.”
A Home Ministry official said Greenpeace was using “pressure tactics” to garner sympathy. He said the government had come to know of some more “hidden accounts” of Greenpeace and was inquiring about them.
While suspending its accounts last month, the government had asked Greenpeace to explain why its registration for receiving foreign money should not be permanently withdrawn.
The NGO had been given 30 days to respond. Aich said they had already sent an “interim response” and would submit a detailed reply in the next few days.
But the continuing battle with the government could continue well beyond June 1, by when cash reserves for salaries and operating the offices would be exhausted, he said.
Priya Pillai, the Greenpeace campaigner who had been prevented by the government to travel to London in January, also addressed the employees. “I fear for my future, but what worries me more is the chilling message that will go out to the rest of Indian civil society and the voiceless people they represent. The MHA has gone too far by blocking our domestic bank accounts, which are funded by individual Indian citizens. If Greenpeace India is first, who is next?” the statement quoted her as saying.