The government barred Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds on Thursday and froze its seven bank accounts, alleging the environmental group was working against the country’s economic progress and public interest.
While suspending the non-profit’s registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), authorities also said the NGO underreported and repeatedly mentioned inaccurate amounts of its foreign contributions.
“The central government hereby suspends the registration under FCRA, 2010 of association Greenpeace India Society (including its branches and units) for a period of 180 days,” said the order issued by home ministry joint secretary GK Dwivedi.
The allegations against Greenpeace India include not reporting an amount of Rs 6.6 crore in its balance sheet, funding legal costs for seeking bails and filing writ petitions, not disclosing the salary of a Greenpeace International activist who worked with its India unit, and shifting its office and changing executive committee members without prior government sanction.
The organisation has 30 days to appeal to the home ministry.
This is the fourth time in less than a year when the NDA government has acted against Greenpeace.
“This is a smear, pure and simple. All of this was put before the Delhi High Court when we brought a case against the centre, and the court decided in our favour…We believe in the Indian legal system. A campaign is being waged against dissent, but we will not be cowed,” said Samit Aich, executive director of Greenpeace India.
Home ministry sources also said Greenpeace was allegedly running a campaign against Indian tea similar to a drive it carried out against Chinese tea. Indian tea is exported to the US, UK and other European countries.
“We will continue to work towards clean air, clean water and inclusive development in India because we believe that every citizen is entitled to it. Our work is supported by the people of this country,” Aich added.
The NGO said 70% of its funds come from Indian donors.
An Intelligence Bureau (IB) report last summer said Greenpeace and other activist groups were damaging India’s economy by campaigning against power projects, mining and genetically-modified food.
The Delhi high court had in January overturned the government’s decision to restrict funding for Greenpeace India last year. The organisation was put in a prior-approval category, wherein the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was asked to get prior sanction of the home ministry before transferring any foreign contribution to the NGO’s bank accounts.
The same month, authorities stopped Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from flying to London where she was to brief British parliamentarians on her campaign in Madhya Pradesh, where a proposed coal mining project is allegedly threatening a local community.
The Delhi high court quashed the “lookout” circular issued against Pillai and questioned the government's move to prevent her from travelling.
The NGO had also received an Income Tax notice in March 2014, asking it to pay around Rs 4 crore. Greenpeace appealed against the order but agreed to pay 25% of the amount, about Rs 99.47 lakh.