Prime minister Narendra Modi’s resolve to replicate the “Gujarat development model” in the country faces stiff opposition from a range of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with connections to the opposition Congress and some who have campaigned for victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots, claims the Intelligence Bureau in its classified report to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The report red-flags not just international NGOs like Greenpeace but select ones from Gujarat that have campaigned against the government: “A consortium of NGOs like Maldhari (herdsmen) Rural Action Group (MARAG), People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Movement for Secular Democracy, Gujarat Sarvodaya Mandal, etc are making efforts to debunk the Gujarat model of development.”
The report claims that these NGOs actively participated in a seminar on March 15 organised by one Gujarat Vikas Manch Lokadhikar Aandolan. At this seminar, the report says, “leaders (of the NGOs) criticised the (Gujarat) state government on issues of Statue of Unity, Special Investment Regions (SIRs), Mithi Virdi (Bhavnagar) nuclear power project, industrial development, employment, health, agriculture etc issues.”
The 21-page secret report to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) names several foreign-funded NGOs and alleges that these were “stalling development projects”.
It identifies their future targets: campaign against palm oil imports from Indonesia, disposal of e-waste of Indian IT firms, organising construction workers in urban areas, protests against identified projects such as Gujarat’s SIRs, Par Tapi Narmada River Interlinking Project and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
The report says that MARAG director Laljibhai Desai, also president of Azad Vikas Sangathan, was instigating, managing and leading agitations against SIRs of Dholera and Mandal-Bechraji.
Desai, who joined Congress before the Lok Sabha elections and is its general secretary in Gujarat, said: “There is no question of any NGO steering the campaign against the government.This government has come to power through corporates and so they will safeguard their interests by targeting voluntary groups who support the people’s cause.”
Before initiating the public agitation against MB-SIR, Desai resigned from MARAG and handed it to his wife, Neeta Pandya. Desai’s protests ultimately forced Gujarat government to exclude 36 out of the 44 villages earmarked for the project.
The IB report says that MARAG received Rs 5.53 crore during 2006-12 with majority coming from Save The Children. Other fund providers were Bioversity, Child Relief & You, International Fund of Agricultural Development, Oxfam and Canada India Village Aid.
The report also names Movement for Secular Democracy, a voluntary organization based in Ahmedabad, which has been active in various cases being contested by victims of the 2002 riots.
MSD’s Convener and veteran Gandhian Prakash N Shah said that criticizing a policy of the establishment on grounds of principle was “not an act of treason”.
PUCL, another one of the organizations which played an active role in campaigning for 2002 riot victims and testified before the Gujarat Government-appointed MB Shah Commission that was probing into corruption allegations against the then Modi Government, has criticised the IB report.
Says its Gujarat general secretary Gautam Thaker: “We don’t get any foreign funds whatsoever. And if some organization is taking foreign funding, what’s the problem if they do it under the provisions of the law of the land? (Going after critical NGOs) would be an undeclared emergency and people need to wake up.”
The IB report marks out another Gujarat-linked project being under NGO attack, the Par Tapi Narmada River Interlinking Project with protests led by Parthi Purna Adivasi Sangathan (PPAS) against the construction of six dams in Gujarat and one in Maharashtra to move water from surplus Western Ghats to north Gujarat and Saurashtra/Kutch.
PPAS alleges 24 villages will be submerged and 51 will be partially affected, has mobilized tribal residents and managed to halt survey work being carried out by the National Water Development Authority.
“The government was initially not being vocal about the project fearing protest. We learnt about it only through the RTI, and now tribal leaders and residents are trying to halt it,” said Sujata Shah, who is working with the NGO.
She is also a member of Sarvodaya Parivar Trust, another NGO opposing the project. “Our primary support comes from donors most of whom are from India. We have over 1,200 donors, who offer small donations.”