Modi and the maritime imperative
Importing Gross National Happiness

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.

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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