India’s fear of NGOs like Greenpeace ‘spurious’: MIT economist

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 19, 2016 08:32 IST
Top MIT economist Abhijit Banerjee at HT Unplugged, in New Delhi. (Saumya Khandelwal/ Hindustan Times)

India is behaving like China in going after foreign aid and advocacy groups such as Greenpeace, top MIT economist Abhijit Banerjee has said, calling New Delhi’s fears unfounded and rooted in paranoia.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has cracked down on about 9,000 NGOs that receive foreign funding, saying these groups had either violated foreign exchange rules or are running campaigns inimical to the country’s financial health. Civil society groups such as Greenpeace, which has run afoul of the authorities, have accused the government of trying to shut out dissent.

“This is largely a spurious fear that this (advocacy) is being manipulated from somewhere else, advocacy manipulated from Washington or London… that’s being used as the intellectual excuse,” Banerjee said. “We are imitating China. Most other countries are much less hostile to aid.”

Cracking down on foreign aid agencies is not a recent phenomenon. During the previous UPA regime of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, organizations like Department of International Development – the official aid agency of the UK government – had to face the brunt of such scrutiny.

“It seems this is foreign ministry paranoia of a certain kind which has no basis in our political economy … Greenpeace’s message we don’t want to hear, but there are 20 other groups with the same message and we can domestically produce it. There is just no reason to think we can control it, but we can absorb all of them.”

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