No Proof Required: In defence of Greenpeace

Law-abiding NGOs, foreign or domestic, are an asset to society as they enlarge the debate through research and advocacy.

Written by Surjit S Bhalla | Published:June 14, 2014 12:00 am
The IB report is a failed flunkie report no matter what the assessment criteria — documentation, logic, analysis, inference or conclusions. The IB report is a failed flunkie report no matter what the assessment criteria — documentation, logic, analysis, inference or conclusions.

I, along with several others, have been documenting, in some detail, the steep decline in GDP growth in India over the last few years, whose magnitude, coincidentally, is almost identical to the decline attributed by the IB to a few FFNGOs. Some questions require an answer. How realistic is the IB assessment? How truthful is the analysis? How professional, in an “academic” sense, is the IB’s discourse on the subject?

In my opinion, the only legitimate issue, whether with foreign or domestic NGOs, or foreign or domestic individuals, or foreign or domestic institutions, is if any law is broken. Unfortunately, in its 21-page report, the IB is silent on laws being broken, but explosive in wearing its own righteous ideology on its ever so arrogant sleeve. The IB report is also tight-lipped on the large probability, or indeed reality, that several very Indian institutions, and indeed several UPA government officials and ministers, agreed wholeheartedly with the economy-stopping recommendations of the FFNGOs.

Indeed, the present ruling party voted with the Congress on economy-destroying legislation like the land acquisition and food security bills. So who is more at fault if fault is present — a mere FFNGO advocating a policy or a not-so-mere UPA government and political parties, which supported the enactment of very bad legislation? Further, how does the source of funding (evil foreign hand) matter? Surely, it is the execution of a policy that is most relevant.

Some of the institutions that have allegedly received funding from Greenpeace include respected names, such as IIT-Delhi. Some of the Indian institutions mentioned in the IB report that agree with the FFNGO-recommended ban on Bt cotton are “the Parliamentary Standing Committee (August 9, 2012) and the Technical Expert Committee (TEC), appointed by the Supreme Court (October 7, 2012)”. The report also alleges that FFNGOs “are making efforts to debunk the Gujarat model of development”.

Some disclosures are in order. I had argued against the opposition to the Narmada dam as far back as the late 1990s. At that time, NGO activist and leader and novelist Arundhati Roy had published a pamphlet alleging that over 50 million people had been displaced in India because of dam construction. I offered an elaborate set of calculations (later published in an academic water journal) that indicated that individuals displaced by dams were no more than three million, that is, Roy and other anti-dam activists were exaggerating by more than 15 times the “true” number. Over the last two years, I have published several articles suggesting that the so-called Gujarat model of development does stand up to scrutiny and that Gujarat, under Narendra Modi, has been tops in economic growth, near tops in poverty alleviation of disadvantaged social groups (Muslims and SCs) and tops in poverty alleviation of the STs. In terms of other social indicators (education, infant mortality), the progress in Modi’s Gujarat has been comparable to the rest of India.

What is quite clear is that my research has led me to quite the opposite conclusions as advocated by some FFNGOs and some domestic NGOs. I had also helped Rahul Mehra and Prashant Bhushan in their successful fight against the biggest NGO of them all, the BCCI. Thanks to policy reform, the BCCI no longer has the status of an NGO. I might also add that I had vehemently disagreed with the Aam Aadmi Party’s destructive policies with respect to water and power supply in Delhi.

The IB report alleges that India’s economy has suffered 2 to 3 per cent GDP loss per year — at today’s levels, that is approximately Rs 2 to 3 lakh crore; midpoint is Rs 2,50,000 crore. The IB is diligent in documenting how much money the allegedly “bad” NGOs have received since 2005-06 to 2011-12. The amount received by “bad” NGOs, hold your breath, has been close to Rs 55 crore per year; generously, let us assume the estimate to be nearly twice that, Rs 100 crore. Now the pitiful margin of Rs 100 crore has gone into the hands of utter geniuses who have made a loss to India (by their research, lobbying and demonstrations) of 2,500 times their original “investment”. Both Roy and even the CAG turn out to be infinitely better economists/ accountants than the IB.

One final point on the IB report and the reaction of some. India’s leading news anchor, Arnab Goswami, berated S.P. Udayakumar for producing “only” 20 research papers from the $40,000 he received from Ohio State University. Goswami weighed in that Rs 1 lakh was anywhere near a lot for a research paper. Perhaps if we knew how much TV anchors get paid for each sentence they speak, we are likely to find out that it is more than Udayakumar got for each research paper.

The IB report is a failed flunkie report no matter what the assessment criteria — documentation, logic, analysis, inference or conclusions. It is an obscenely foolish report. It is a huge disservice to the new Modi-BJP regime. While the IB might think that they are speaking His Master’s Voice, my guess is that it has grotesquely misjudged the new masters. Perhaps it is not their fault — they have been used to a very different master for the past decade. Let the IB get it — it is no longer business-as-usual.

I welcome all NGOs, research organisations and governments who follow the rule of democracy and law. If any of them wants to fund me for research, they are welcome to do so. Given the ideological preferences of most FFNGOs, I am not holding my breath. But law-abiding NGOS, foreign or domestic, are an asset to any society because they enlarge the debate via research and advocacy.

I, along with several others, have been documenting, in some detail, the steep decline in GDP growth in India over the last few years, whose magnitude, coincidentally, is almost identical to the decline attributed by the IB to a few FFNGOs. Some questions require an answer. How realistic is the IB assessment? How truthful is the analysis? How professional, in an “academic” sense, is the IB’s discourse on the subject?

In my opinion, the only legitimate issue, whether with foreign or domestic NGOs, or foreign or domestic individuals, or foreign or domestic institutions, is if any law is broken. Unfortunately, in its 21-page report, the IB is silent on laws being broken, but explosive in wearing its own righteous ideology on its ever so arrogant sleeve. The IB report is also tight-lipped on the large probability, or indeed reality, that several very Indian institutions, and indeed several UPA government officials and ministers, agreed wholeheartedly with the economy-stopping recommendations of the FFNGOs.

Indeed, the present ruling party voted with the Congress on economy-destroying legislation like the land acquisition and food security bills. So who is more at fault if fault is present — a mere FFNGO advocating a policy or a not-so-mere UPA government and political parties, which supported the enactment of very bad legislation? Further, how does the source of funding (evil foreign hand) matter? Surely, it is the execution of a policy that is most relevant.

Some of the institutions that have allegedly received funding from Greenpeace include respected names, such as IIT-Delhi. Some of the Indian institutions mentioned in the IB report that agree with the FFNGO-recommended ban on Bt cotton are “the Parliamentary Standing Committee (August 9, 2012) and the Technical Expert Committee (TEC), appointed by the Supreme Court (October 7, 2012)”. The report also alleges that FFNGOs “are making efforts to debunk the Gujarat model of development”.

Some disclosures are in order. I had argued against the opposition to the Narmada dam as far back as the late 1990s. At that time, NGO activist and leader and novelist Arundhati Roy had published a pamphlet alleging that over 50 million people had been displaced in India because of dam construction. I offered an elaborate set of calculations (later published in an academic water journal) that indicated that individuals displaced by dams were no more than three million, that is, Roy and other anti-dam activists were exaggerating by more than 15 times the “true” number. Over the last two years, I have published several articles suggesting that the so-called Gujarat model of development does stand up to scrutiny and that Gujarat, under Narendra Modi, has been tops in economic growth, near tops in poverty alleviation of disadvantaged social groups (Muslims and SCs) and tops in poverty alleviation of the STs. In terms of other social indicators (education, infant mortality), the progress in Modi’s Gujarat has been comparable to the rest of India.

What is quite clear is that my research has led me to quite the opposite conclusions as advocated by some FFNGOs and some domestic NGOs. I had also helped Rahul Mehra and Prashant Bhushan in their successful fight against the biggest NGO of them all, the BCCI. Thanks to policy reform, the BCCI no longer has the status of an NGO. I might also add that I had vehemently disagreed with the Aam Aadmi Party’s destructive policies with respect to water and power supply in Delhi.

The IB report alleges that India’s economy has suffered 2 to 3 per cent GDP loss per year — at today’s levels, that is approximately Rs 2 to 3 lakh crore; midpoint is Rs 2,50,000 crore. The IB is diligent in documenting how much money the allegedly “bad” NGOs have received since 2005-06 to 2011-12. The amount received by “bad” NGOs, hold your breath, has been close to Rs 55 crore per year; generously, let us assume the estimate to be nearly twice that, Rs 100 crore. Now the pitiful margin of Rs 100 crore has gone into the hands of utter geniuses who have made a loss to India (by their research, lobbying and demonstrations) of 2,500 times their original “investment”. Both Roy and even the CAG turn out to be infinitely better economists/ accountants than the IB.

One final point on the IB report and the reaction of some. India’s leading news anchor, Arnab Goswami, berated S.P. Udayakumar for producing “only” 20 research papers from the $40,000 he received from Ohio State University. Goswami weighed in that Rs 1 lakh was anywhere near a lot for a research paper. Perhaps if we knew how much TV anchors get paid for each sentence they speak, we are likely to find out that it is more than Udayakumar got for each research paper.

The IB report is a failed flunkie report no matter what the assessment criteria — documentation, logic, analysis, inference or conclusions. It is an obscenely foolish report. It is a huge disservice to the new Modi-BJP regime. While the IB might think that they are speaking His Master’s Voice, my guess is that it has grotesquely misjudged the new masters. Perhaps it is not their fault — they have been used to a very different master for the past decade. Let the IB get it — it is no longer business-as-usual.

I welcome all NGOs, research organisations and governments who follow the rule of democracy and law. If any of them wants to fund me for research, they are welcome to do so. Given the ideological preferences of most FFNGOs, I am not holding my breath. But law-abiding NGOS, foreign or domestic, are an asset to any society because they enlarge the debate via research and advocacy.

The writer is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory firm, and a senior advisor to Zyfin, a leading financial information company.

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  1. I
    IndianWellWisher
    Jun 14, 2014 at 11:00 pm
    Good article. Most people generalize NGOs as one group. Take CSE (Centre for Science and Environment). Their work stands out in quality - corporate or NGO world. Incidentally they do receive foreign funding.Their work on water conservation, second cl treatment by Coke and Pepsi for people in third world countries, endo sulphan tragedy in Kerala - too any to quote here.
    Reply
    1. K
      Kkghose
      Jun 18, 2014 at 12:52 pm
      As usual Dr. Surjit Bhalla has hit the nail on the head. The Intelligence report does not have any intelligence. Islamic terrorists are poised to start terror activities and create enimity in India between Hindus and Muslims and between India and stan and IB is like Don Quixote and Pink panther busy printing rubbish about Green Peace and other NGO like Uday Kumar (I personally dont agree with their views most of the time). Also I am quite worried I would land up in Jail after posting this anti national comment..
      Reply
      1. P
        PChrome
        Jun 14, 2014 at 12:41 pm
        NGOs must be monitored and controlled, especially foreign NGOs. They have no right to whip up public frenzy by feeding inaccurate and false information. Giving NGOs a blank check is bad as declaring all NGOs are bad.
        Reply
        1. P
          PChrome
          Jun 14, 2014 at 12:42 pm
          Test
          Reply
          1. R
            R
            Jun 14, 2014 at 6:57 am
            Green peace is so powerful that it is a country by itself. What with its officers having their own private jets and ships. Some of these NGOs are funded by ISI, like Setalvad of Gujarat fame. Thousands being killed by terrorists are ignored by these NGOs but any terrorist caught by police is portra as a victim of police atrocities. Time we brought on our own version of the Patriot Act of USA. These NGOs are parasites on society.
            Reply
            1. A
              Abhishek
              Jun 14, 2014 at 12:00 pm
              It is obvious that the IB report is not gospel. It is also right that the opinion expressed in that report has been around for quite some time- including an articulation by the then PM Manmohan Singh himself in 2012.It is just that the government is quite determined to tackle this unwanted problem this time- the leaking of the report points to a simila direction. The enemy is extremely subtle and insidious- hence the employment of below the belt methods.
              Reply
              1. I
                indian
                Jun 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm
                Why NGOs worry ?? let a CBI probe to happen
                Reply
                1. A
                  anupam
                  Jun 14, 2014 at 3:53 am
                  Very good article.I was too suious of this IB report as no other industrial country has tried to demonize these NGO's even knowing very well that they are mostly anti-technology.But in a democracy they do have a right to exist no matter what their economic ideologies are.
                  Reply
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