Column: In defence of Greenpeace

Jun 14 2014, 11:10 IST
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SummaryLaw-abiding NGOs, foreign or domestic, are an asset because they enlarge the debate via research and advocacy

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) report on the operation of foreign-funded NGOs (FFNGOs, hereafter) has rightfully created a stir, and debate, in India. I have actually read the report in all its gory detail. The report documents allegedly nefarious and anti-development activities of FFNGOs with regard to nuclear energy, mining, e-waste, etc. The IB report boldly concludes, in highlights , The negative impact on GDP growth (caused by the activities of FFNGOs like Greenpeace) is assessed to be 2-3 % p.a..

As readers of this column know, 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, co-incidentally, is almost identical to the decline attributed by 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 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 whole-heartedly with the economy-stopping recommendations of the FFNGOs.

Indeed, the present ruling party voted with the Congress on economy-destroying legislation such as the Land Acquisition Act and the Food Security Act. So, who is more at fault if fault is presenta mere FFNGO advocating a policy or a not-so-mere UPA government and the political parties who 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 received funding from Greenpeace include respected names such as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, and IIT-Delhi. Some of the Indian institutions mentioned in the IB report which 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

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