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Foreign Hands - INSAF indicted by a "so-called secret IB report" for opposing foreign companies

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Foreign Hands - INSAF, Greenpeace and others have been indicted by a "so-called secret IB report" for opposing foreign companies, ecologically hazardous and people-displacing projects.
Since the first week of June 2014, a report on “Concerned efforts by select foreign funded NGOs to ‘take down’ Indian development projects” with a detailed review on ‘Impact of NGOs on Development’ is in circulation in the media as a 'secret report' by the Intelligence Bureau.
Several activists and some groups have been blamed for stalling 2-3% of the country's GDP.
The report can be viewed at:
Reactions on so-called IB report on NGOs in the media
Compilation - 20 June

TV Programs:
1. Rajya Sabha TV - NGOs in dock: Need for scrutiny?
Disussants: D C Pathak (Former Director, Intelligence Bureau), Anil Chaudhary (Coordinator, INSAF), Saikat Datta (Editor, National Security, Hindustan Times) and Dr. Suman Sahai (Gene Campaign). Anchored by Girish Nikam. Duration 30 minutes.

1. IB report: PMANE chief Udayakumar slaps legal notice on MHA   - FirstPost
2. I am not a threat to Indian economy: Rainer Sonntag Hermann  -  Jeemon Jacob (Tehelka)
3. Answering to law, not to Caesar  - Editorial (The Hindu)
4. The importance of dissent in democracy  - Pushpa M Bhargava (The Hindu)
5. Aruna Roy to Modi: When governments don’t listen, unrest follows  - Pallavi Polanki (FP)
6. NGO: Three-lettered angels  - Salil Tripathi (Livemint)
7. It is the pot calling the kettle black: Why both the Right and the Left are wrong on foreign-funded NGOs  - Pradyot Lal (Tehelka, 28JUN)
8. After Greenpeace, govt may act against more NGOs  - Chetan Chauhan (Hindustan Times, June 20, 2014)

Compilation - 18 June

1. Six Delhi NGOs in IB watchlist say thank you for noticing us  - Amitav Ranjan , Shalini Narayan
2. How India treats its NGOs  - Maja Daruwala &  Venkatesh Nayak
3. No Proof Required: In defence of Greenpeace  - Surjit S Bhalla
4. Report on NGO funds: Is the Intelligence Bureau on a witch hunt?  - Jay Mazoomdaar
5. Anti-nuclear activists call IB report on NGOs a ‘cock and bull story’  - FP Staff
6. Fault lines: Talk of rights and become the enemy of the State  - Subir Ghosh
7. Dissent is now a crime  - Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
8. Generously motivated  - Vandana Shiva
9. Foreign hand in the IB Report?  - Vidyut
10. ASHA’s Statement on the IB report & India’s GMO-Free Movement

Compilation - 20 June

1. IB report: PMANE chief Udayakumar slaps legal notice on MHA   - FirstPost
2. I am not a threat to Indian economy: Rainer Sonntag Hermann  -  Jeemon Jacob (Tehelka)
3. Answering to law, not to Caesar  - Editorial (The Hindu)
4. The importance of dissent in democracy  - Pushpa M Bhargava (The Hindu)
5. Aruna Roy to Modi: When governments don’t listen, unrest follows  - Pallavi Polanki (FP)
6. NGO: Three-lettered angels  - Salil Tripathi (Livemint)
7. It is the pot calling the kettle black: Why both the Right and the Left are wrong on foreign-funded NGOs  - Pradyot Lal (Tehelka, 28JUN)
8. After Greenpeace, govt may act against more NGOs  - Chetan Chauhan (Hindustan Times, June 20, 2014)

IB report: PMANE chief Udayakumar slaps legal notice on MHA   - FirstPost

Jun 18, 2014

Anti-nuke activist and convener of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, SP Udayakumar today sent a legal notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs regarding the Intelligence Bureau report that alleged foreign-funded NGOs are having a 'negative impact' on India’s economy.

According to a Times Now report, Udayakumar has denied receiving any foreign funds in the legal notice and has also questioned the veracity of the IB report.
On 13 June, the PMANE chief had made it clear at a press conference in Chennai that he would deal with the government legally regarding the report.

"This report affects me personally. I am consulting with my lawyers about safeguarding my dignity and honour and protecting the security interests of me and my family members. I will take IB to legal task," Udayakumar had said. "When people like us are discredited and dishonoured, the younger generation will not believe in democratic means of opposition and may take to violence."

The anti-nuclear activist, who has been leading the struggle against the nuclear plant in Kudankulam, also said that he would take the IB to court for jeopardising the safety and security of his family.

The PMANE chief had also expressed surprised that such a sensitive and confidential report was leaked to the media.

"How did this report that was filed by a top intelligence agency in the country and submitted to the topmost authority, the PMO, get leaked? Who leaked this report?" Udayakumar had asked.

I am not a threat to Indian economy: Rainer Sonntag Hermann  -  Jeemon Jacob (Tehelka)

June 18, 2014
For Rainer Sonntag Hermann India remains a nightmare. But after having lived in Nagercoil for three months, he was deported to Germany on 27 February 2012 for allegedly funding the anti-nuke protests in Koodankulam. The recent Intelligence Bureau report on foreign-funded NGOs also names Hermann for funding anti-nuclear protests. Hermann spoke to Jeemon Jacob on why he is being framed as a threat to India’s national security.

Are you aware that the IB has submitted a report alleging you were actively involved with the anti-nuclear campaign in Koodankulam?
I wasn’t aware of it until last week. Like majority of Germans, I’m opposed to nuclear energy and concerned about the safety of the people. We have witnessed several nuclear plant tragedies across the world. Even after Chernobyl and Fukushima, we have not learnt lessons. Germany decided to phase out of the nuclear power in 2011. I saw how the anti-nuclear-movement achieved this political change and wanted to have a look at how Indians are dealing with it. That’s how I went to a protest in Kanyakumari, 20 kilometres away from Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu where I was holidaying five years ago. It was a public conference concerning nuclear power in Kanyakumari. Dr SP Udayakumar, who I had met earlier, informed me about the conference. I felt it would be interesting to attend it. I did not take part in organising or financing the conference. Neither did I make a speech there. I just watched the proceedings. I did not know that it was a crime for a tourist to watch public protests in India.

Then how did your name figure in the IB report?
While I was waiting to be deported, my laptop was confiscated and I was asked to handover the password of my laptop. I don’t know exactly what the officials read and copied. At least one private photo was stolen and leaked to the press. My local email programme stored a copy of all my sent/received emails. I suppose the “secret paper” agencies are quoting was a map I emailed. When I went to the protests in Kanyakumari, someone pinned a map of India on the wall and participants began to mark nuclear power stations across the country and people glued their local contact addresses on the map. When some people started to taking down that information, I was asked to take photograph of the poster and send it to their addresses on email. I just obliged them and mailed them the photograph. That is my alleged crime.

The report also names you as the German contact for anti-nuclear activities and source of foreign funding of protests in India.
I spend my time travelling to cheapest destinations in the world. I don’t understand the allegations against me. Had the authorities checked my emails thoroughly they would have realised that I am not an activist. I don’t have the financial resources to fund protests in India or elsewhere. I’m not linked to any organisation or NGO. I saved some money when I was still working as a programmer and now am living off it. If Indian authorities had found evidence against me violating laws of the land, they could have prosecuted me before deporting. I’m not a VIP in Germany and have no diplomatic immunity. I feel that I was made a scapegoat to further a certain agenda and the authorities are repeating one lie after the other. I’m not a threat to anyone.

Do you have plans to visit India again?
I have no such plans. When the immigration officials deported me two years ago, I was told I would not get a visa again. I was treated badly by Indian authorities. I’m not interested in going through this trouble once again. So, India is a closed chapter for me — but I feel sorry for Indians who live under an oppressive government. I feel that in a democracy human rights are better respected and protected.

Answering to law, not to Caesar  - Editorial (The Hindu)

 Last week’s leak of an Intelligence Bureau report slamming foreign-funded non-governmental organisations for retarding India’s development ought to generate concern about the capabilities and sense of balance of those charged with defending the republic. Liberally plagiarising from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches, the report alleges that a “significant number of Indian NGOs funded by donors based in US, UK, Germany and Netherlands have been noticed to be using people-centric issues to create an environment, which lends itself to stalling development projects.” It argues that NGO interventions led, among other things, to the scrapping of Posco’s steel plant project and the Vedanta bauxite project in Orissa, dams in Arunachal Pradesh, and research into genetically-modified plants — supposedly shaving 2 per cent to 3 per cent off India’s Gross Domestic Product. Leaving aside the dubious arithmetic underlying this claim, the more worrying fact is that the report happily elides over Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s role in agitating against bauxite mining in Odisha, or former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh’s opposition to genetically-modified crops. Nor can it be the Intelligence Bureau’s case that it is illegitimate to seek to mobilise people around causes, the stuff of democracy. There can of course be two opinions on the wisdom of the politics of Greenpeace or other NGOs, but it is significant that the Intelligence Bureau did not find any criminal wrong-doing.

The larger issue, though, isn’t incompetent spies: it is the dysfunctional role of the intelligence services in our republic. In the decades after Independence, successive Prime Ministers turned the Intelligence Bureau into a kind of private detective service for the government, charging it with surveilling everything from political opponents to routine economic activity. The Intelligence Bureau — often with little domain competence — weighs in on everything from the appointment of judges to the credentials of business houses. In most developed democracies, the law would render such activities illegal. In India, though, there are no laws — and no major party is committed to enacting one. Though politicians when out of office routinely rail against the Intelligence Bureau’s political espionage, they discover its advantages once seated on the throne. This has had a demonstrable cost: even though the Intelligence Bureau is a third below its sanctioned strength, the vast majority of its personnel are committed to duties of dubious relevance to national security. The Intelligence Bureau is charged with the defence of the republic, not with the defence of the policies and interests of whoever is in office. It is time for law to guide the intelligence services’ work, not Caesar.

The importance of dissent in democracy  - Pushpa M Bhargava (The Hindu)

In a democracy, non-governmental organisations provide a platform to civil society to dissent in an informed and reasoned manner

On October 31, 1570, Martin Luther nailed on the door of a church in Germany 95 objections to the Catholic faith that led to the emergence of Protestanism. Soon after, Galileo Galilei challenged the Church by stating that the Earth and other planets revolve round the Sun. He died under house arrest.

In 1927, Heinrich Wieland received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovering a structure of cholic acid which was proven to be wrong within a year. In 1959, Severo Ochoa and Arthur Kornberg shared a Nobel Prize for the discovery of enzymes that carry out the synthesis of RNA and DNA in living organisms. It turned out that these enzymes were not the right ones.

In fact, the history of progress of mankind is a history of informed dissent; much of creative activity of high quality in all areas of human endeavour at any given time has been a reflection of such dissent.

Today we favour democracy as the most acceptable form of governance because a citizen has a right to dissent without fear of victimisation — as long as such dissent does not lead to inhuman or unconstitutional action. By contrast, dissent in an authoritarian, dictatorial or colonial regime could lead to the severest of punishments — loss of life — as happened in colonial India, Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s USSR.

Platform for dissent

In a democracy, non-governmental organisations provide a platform to civil society to dissent in an informed and reasoned manner. They provide a mechanism for the ruled to keep a check on the rulers.

There are of course NGOs that engage in illegal or objectionable activities using Indian and/or foreign funds, much like how 34 per cent of newly elected MPs in Parliament have criminal cases against them. Just as the majority of MPs do not have cases against them, a large proportion of our NGOs operate transparently and legally.

The power that NGOs wield has increased concurrently with the increased demand for real and operational democracy. If it were not for our NGOs, we would not have the system of obligatory declaration of assets, now required by all those aspiring to be MPs. We would also not have the the Right to Information Act or the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act.

Denigrating good NGOs would therefore imply that our democracy is only notional and not functional. Such denigration would smack of a dictatorial attitude.

The recent Intelligence Bureau report on the “Concerted efforts of select foreign funded NGOs to ‘take down’ Indian development projects” casts serious aspersions on some of our best NGOs and distinguished citizens. The report also alleges that these NGOs would have a negative impact on GDP growth by 2-3 per cent by stalling, through agitation, development projects such as nuclear power plants, uranium mines, coal-fired power plants, GMOs, projects by POSCO and Vedanta, hydel projects, and “extractive industries” in the north-east.

By casting unwarranted and unproven aspersions on highly reputed NGOs such as Greenpeace and Nobel Prize-winning Amnesty International, and individuals such as Suman Sahai, Vandana Shiva, Aruna Rodrigues, Prashant Bhushan, Udayakumar, Admiral Ramdos and Praful Bidwai, the IB has indirectly indicted every individual and NGO that has voiced reasoned dissent in the interest of our country and its people, within our constitutional framework. Such an attitude on the part of the IB makes a mockery of our democracy.

What is wrong in receiving funds from well-meaning individuals or bona fide organisations abroad who want to help a worthwhile cause in India? Doesn’t the Indian government, for example, help worthwhile causes in Afghanistan? In fact, the Bureau should have looked at the damage caused by government funding to organisations like Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh. Medha Patkar’s Narmada Bachao Andolan started as a fully justified campaign on June 12 against the illegal raising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam from 122 to 139 metres, which will adversely impact over 2.5 lakh people engaged in various occupations. We know from past experience that nothing will be done for those who stand to be displaced by this move. But IB would probably condemn the above campaign in its next report.

Let us look at how specious and ridiculous the arguments in the IB report are. There is massive opposition to nuclear power plants around the world, and many countries such as Japan and Germany have decided to abrogate them in a time-bound fashion. In our own country, many highly distinguished individuals such as a former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, a former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, and several former Secretaries to the Government of India, who are knowledgeable in the area, have opposed further investment in nuclear energy. None of them has any connection with Greenpeace, nor do they have any vested interest. They have provided valid reasons for their views.

Let us take another example — coal mining for coal-fired thermal power plants. Such mining requires destroying India’s forest wealth and the livelihood of tribals. What about our national commitment since Independence to have over 30 per cent of our area under forest cover? Why should we invest so heavily in nuclear, thermal or large hydel power plants, none of which will be environment or people-friendly, when we have far better alternatives staring us in our face: solar power, wind power, micro and mini hydel, biomass and biogas, lot of which can be produced and used locally? Isn’t it strange that our country does not have even one single institute totally devoted to research on solar power? We want to spend enormous amounts of money to buy nuclear reactors from the U.S. but we do not want to learn lessons on solar power from Germany. What is then wrong with NGOs in our country such as Greenpeace for taking a courageous stand against nuclear, coal-fired thermal or large hydel power plants?

It is hilarious that the possession of a map showing nuclear installations in India and a list of Indians who oppose nuclear power — all of which is public knowledge — is a crime in the eyes of the IB. The ignorance of the Bureau with regard to the Bt-cotton story in India, and of the problems with GM crops, is appalling. For example, Bt-cotton has totally failed in rain-fed areas that account for nearly two-thirds of cotton-growing area in the country. Even if, as the IB claims, there is a negative impact on GDP because of opposition to certain projects, so what? Our experience of high growth rate in some recent years has by no means been satisfactory, for it has barely touched the bottom 80 per cent of our population and has vastly increased the economic gap between the top 20 and bottom 80 per cent.

Action against illegal activities

It is only proper that the government takes action against those organisations that obtain foreign funds illegally and/or are not transparent in using them as required by law. Many organisations do not take money from the government or business houses. It is admirable that they survive on donations by individuals in India and/or abroad. They follow the provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act and their accounting is transparent. I believe that in the long-term interests of inclusive growth in the country, it is much wiser to support such organisations than to have FDI in retail which will benefit a select few but adversely affect millions of people in the country.
(Pushpa M. Bhargava is the founder- director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology at Hyderabad, and chairman of the Southern Regional Centre of Council for Social Development.)

Aruna Roy to Modi: When governments don’t listen, unrest follows

by Pallavi Polanki  Jun 16, 2014

The Intelligence Bureau’s controversial report on the “negative impact” of foreign-funded NGOs on India’s economy has drawn the ire of activists and civil society groups who have called it an attempt to thwart dissent and crush popular protests against big business.
The timing of the IB report, which was submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office less than two weeks after the new government took over, and speed with which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has responded to it has only reinforced apprehensions about what the future holds for those who disagree with government’s “development model”.

Firstpost spoke to social activist Aruna Roy about the implications of the IB report for people’s movements in India and what it says about the new Modi-led government.

Excerpts from the interview:

Your reaction to the IB report and its claim that foreign-funded NGOs working in the field of environment are costing India a loss of up to 2-3 percent of the GDP annually.

This is an illogical, strange and almost ridiculous conclusion for the IB to draw. The IB is mandated to report on security. This report seems to go much beyond that to comment on an economic paradigm, and equates any difference to that paradigm with a threat to security and anti-national behaviour. In particular it makes the case that any group participating in any form of protest or even highlighting the negative fallout of nuclear power plants/coal mining projects/GM foods/industrial corridor projects etc are anti-development and anti-national. Who defines “development”? Even economists differ amongst themselves on the definition. These are contentious issues debated all over the globe, where the economic cost to our environment (climate change), safety of communities living in these regions, and the impact on increasing inequalities is sought to be ignored and brushed under the carpet.

The report questions the conclusions drawn by activists and environmental groups and puts a figure on it. However, the authors of the report do not bother to analyse and show how they reached the astronomical figure of 2-3 percent loss to the GDP. Even as an official economic analysis this is shoddy and misleading. When that is used as the basis of branding these groups and their activities as anti-national, with an attempt to connect them to “the foreign hand”, it is deliberately mischievous. In fact, this begs the question of whether the IB is actually trying to support the brazen attempt by foreign corporations such as Monsanto to control the seed and agri-business market through patented GM food production? Or are they attempting to support Vedanta — another foreign multinational and its attempt to override the concerns of indigenous tribals and corner the profits extracted from their resources? Or do they feel that questions of corruption and potential environmental damage should not be raised in areas where coal or uranium mining takes place?

The IB report makes no attempt to evaluate the immense power of “foreign” corporate money influencing political decisions and opinion in India, driven by its profit motive. The IB also fails to explain the so-called pernicious motive of the foreign development agencies, human rights organisations, and environmental groups. If they have a “foreign interest” they should be supporting the foreign corporations who will take away profits to their own countries and companies.

If the sweeping assertion of the IB’s “foreign hand” is accepted, perhaps the time has come to stop all foreign money. No FDI and no foreign funding. Let the Indian government reject all foreign loans and support, including from the IMF and World Bank; let Indian industry propose investments without any FDI; and let the FCRA be amended so that it becomes a foreign contribution prevention act. That is when we might have equal standards applied on all foreign money. However, it is clear that foreign funding is just being used as a red herring.

If NGOs are violating the law, and misusing money, it is far better to bring them completely under the RTI Act and ensure complete public scrutiny. People can watch them much better than IB surveillance.

Is the timing of the report and the response it has received from the Prime Minister a cause for worry?

The IB report demonstrates that its surveillance has been going on for many years. Yet, as some commentators have observed, parts of the report seem to be almost plagiarised from a book that made similar sets of allegations, and was released by the current Prime Minister, when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.

It is clear that this trend is not new, and the IB has performed this function over years. But the speed with which these issues are now being prioritised shows the urgency to stop all protest immediately. The new government has exposed its intent by not distancing itself from this kind of a report and its unsubstantiated conclusions. The subsequent letters issued by the PMO to different Ministries to start keeping a tab on all NGOs also passes a message down the line. It seems to suggest that this report is part of a larger plan of the government to muzzle dissent and contrary opinion.

What impact is this report likely to have on civil society movements in India?

Civic engagement is now accepted as one of the cornerstones of democratic governance. The quality of civic engagement is dependent on the access to civic space for movements. Citizens have to work as collectives to get their voices heard. By casting aspersions on campaigns, this report is clearly trying to create an atmosphere of apprehension and fear in all civil society groups. It is quite likely that this report will be followed up by a kind of a witch-hunt against dissenting organisations so that all of civil society is forewarned.

The government should remember that these are democratic movements seeking to amplify voices of the marginalised. Instead of trying to shut them off, it would be much wiser to listen to them carefully, and understand how much merit there is in what they are saying. The targeted organisations are those that have long believed in non-violent protest and are in the Gandhian tradition of peoples movements. Where the ruling party has been unwilling to listen or accord equal space, unrest has followed. Peoples’ voices can never be shut off completely. A wise government will listen to them. The curb on expression including protest is a serious warning that democracy is threatened.

How should NGOs and members of the civil society respond to the IB report and the claims its makes?

The reaction to this report must come from all segments of Indian society. We need to make sure that intelligence agencies are not used for political purpose in this fashion. There have been nuances of agreement and disagreement with commentators who do not agree with the point of view of the groups targeted in this report. The differences arise from perception, perspective and values. Their being damned as anti-national and malafide, actually shows up the government and the administration’s inability and even unwillingness to deal with dissent. No “development” can be at the cost of a segment of its people, and at the cost of constitutional democratic values.

What aspects of the IB report do you find most disturbing?

This kind of report shows that the IB is working outside its mandate. It is a strong reason to call for a review of the working of the IB itself and to bring it under the RTI Act. We must also restrain its obvious effort to support foreign corporations at the cost of the democratic rights of the ordinary citizen, and their right to know and decide in India. There has been a popular belief that the IB operates under a political mandate and not as it should do, under genuine concerns for national security. Apart from what it has stated about the working of NGOs and movements, the worry for all Indians should be the nature of it’s functioning as mandated by the Government! Is it just a mouth piece for the Government in power, or is it a national institution to protect the country even from the government itself, should the government become anti its own people?

Earlier this month, the Delhi Police evicted Dalit families who had been protesting in Jantar Mantar against caste-violence in Haryana. Your initial reaction to this crackdown on protestors in Jantar Mantar. Is there a worry that spaces for protest and voices of dissent are being increasingly policed?

The attack on women protesting against rape at Jantar Mantar is worrying. It signifies rubbing of salt on wounds of marginalised people – Dalits, women– and sends a clear message that protest and dissent will not be tolerated and forcefully curbed. First it’s a message to women to expect no real support from this government on issues of violence against them. The second is that Dalits who seemed to find hope in the larger Hindu identity will still continue to be discriminated and as Dalit women, they will be at the bottom of the pile. This is absolutely unacceptable and will not be accepted by women across castes, religions and class.

The overwhelming anti-democratic action is the denial of the right to protest and the violence with which it was quelled. Neither of which is acceptable. The government showcased its intolerance for dissent by demolishing shelters and evicting people from Jantar Mantar — a symbol of democratic space for Indian’s silent and suffering majority, where ordinary people hope to have their voices amplified — and proposes to ban Jantar Mantar for protests.

The government should understand that such totalitarian methods cannot be imposed on a country which has known the right to free speech and expression since 1947 definitely, and even before. Our sovereignty is protected not merely by a vote but by the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Last week, the Centre gave Gujarat government the nod to increase height of the Narmada Dam. Do you share the concerns that this decision has raised among activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan? Do you see a larger message in this decision for people’s movements who are protesting against similar projects in other parts of the country?

The action of the Modi government, while following a visible trend over the years, can also be traced back to decades of resistance by marginalised people and the cultivated damning of the campaign in Gujarat. This is the tip of the ice berg and is a clear message to other campaigns that no stone will be left unturned to quell any or all protest. The decision to raise the height of the Narmada Dam has been taken without any public consultation, and in an arbitrary manner at a time when there are many claims of already displaced people not being properly rehabilitated.

While villages and entire families will be submerged, their protest will only get louder. To reiterate, there can be no democracy without the right to dissent and express it; and no decision can promote the well-being of a nation, unless it carries its people along. There is logic and wisdom behind the architecture of debate and discussion, and looking for solutions together with the sovereign people who elect representatives to rule them every five years.

NGO: Three-lettered angels  - Salil Tripathi (Livemint)

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) exist because governments fail. If all the governments did what they had to do, and did it right, then the NGOs would have no reason to exist. Then again, if all the companies always complied with the law, NGOs would be without work. But they have work, and they exist, because those whose job is to make and enforce the law, and those whose responsibility it is to comply with the law, find ingenious ways to avoid their responsibilities.
In pursuing profit, companies should operate within the law and governments should regulate in such a manner that the interests of the wider society are served, and where harm is caused, those harmed are compensated. Removing poverty is a government’s goal; despite the bottom-of-the-pyramid rhetoric of marketing departments, it cannot be the role of a company. Both have to be accountable. It is because they aren’t that NGOs try to remind them of the voices of individuals and groups who are marginalized, vulnerable, and powerless. They are not listened to, or not allowed to speak, because of the state’s obsession with self-defined development, and because of “the greater common good”.
But who determines the greater common good? A city needs water supply and electricity, and it may be necessary to build a hydroelectric project on a river to provide both. But if the construction causes flooding and displaces people, then who bears the cost? And what happens if year after year, decade after decade, those who bear such costs are neither consulted nor do they get adequate compensation? What if they dare to protest, to demand their rights, and are then beaten up? Do their rights not matter?
To be sure, there is selfishness in NGOs’ altruism, as it is with anyone’s altruism. NGOs are similar to businesses—they must earn more than what they spent last year, if they are to remain in business this year, and if the problems they are trying to fix get solved, they’d get out of business. NGOs should of course file income tax returns and be accountable. Many NGOs do reveal how they are funded. Do we know as much about how political parties are funded? And what about companies.
Try digging into the balance sheets of companies to find out the ultimate beneficiaries of trust funds and other special purpose vehicles which invest in mutual funds and then try finding out who the eventual owners of a company are. It is not simple; and the deeper you dig, the more arcane the holding patterns become for some companies. Is the Intelligence Bureau, (IB) so concerned about Greenpeace’s funding, also concerned about who the Mauritius-based foreign shareholders are in India’s blue-chip companies?
We are expected to accept at face value those companies, with their intricate shareholding patterns. And we have to accept their claims that the minerals they want to extract will spread prosperity in the country, or that the trees they will cut down to make way for a new integrated township is a necessary cost for the jobs the new township will create. The companies’ brochures become the prime source from which some journalists write glowing stories. But if an NGO argues against those projects because it doesn’t want the forest cover to dwindle further from what it is, 20.6% of the country’s land area, or because villagers living near the mining belt don’t want to move again, then the NGO is described as anti-national and anti-development. And questions are raised about the source of their funding.
But what is at issue here: the merit of their argument, or how they are funded? Debate the issue, not the source. NGOs take foreign funding because some causes they represent are unpopular. A human rights group won’t find it easy to raise funds for improving jail conditions in India or to stop torture in Kashmir or to demand fair trials for terrorism suspects or to campaign against the death penalty. But no NGO can survive if it only parrots its donors’ views, if there is no support for such views among the community it claims to represent. Those communities don’t get heard easily in India because what they demand is often against the interests of the wealthy who might be in a position to donate but are beneficiaries of just the projects the communities oppose. The NGO that helps those communities is a countervailing power, setting the balance right.
NGOs aren’t always right. Greenpeace’s campaign against genetically modified foods has Luddite overtones, and the European Union’s “precautionary principle” can stop scientific advancement. But in a democracy it is not a crime to hold such views and express them. People have the right to hold “wrong” views. The IB report is politically misguided, has factual inaccuracies, and does huge disservice to the kind of nation India is. By portraying NGOs as the nation’s enemies the report places India in the company of countries like Russia and China. Is that the company India wants to keep?
Disclosure: I work at a non-profit think tank that promotes corporate accountability according to international human rights standards, but these are my personal views, as with all my journalism at Mint and elsewhere.
Salil Tripathi is a writer based in London.

It is the pot calling the kettle black: Why both the Right and the Left are wrong on foreign-funded NGOs 

Pradyot Lal (Tehelka, 28JUN)

It is a theme on which both the naysayers and proponents of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are guilty of overstating their case; not all NGOs are neo-liberal Trojan horses furthering a subversive agenda, while the number of actual good samaritans working for change is also not particularly very high. Objectively speaking, the issue is far too sensitive to be treated in the cavalier fashion as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has done: Terming foreign-funded NGOs “anti-national” per se reinforces the Indian penchant of trying to detect a foreign conspiracy to manipulate domestic politics when the actual guilt primarily lies with the policy planners and the government itself.

There indeed is a huge element of hypocrisy on the part of the Indian State to freeze the accounts of the anti- Kudankulam groups when actual facts suggest that nothing is done about some other favoured ones who are thriving on the largesse of their donors — and the government is simply doing nothing about them! Such indeed is the preponderance of mythmakers and alarmists that arriving at a balanced perspective on the issue is not very easy. There is a thin dividing line between the projection of the vested interests of private companies and those who are peddling influence on behalf of an NGO. More pertinently, the stakes either way are huge, as the volume of foreign money entering India in the name of “advocacy” or “development” is by no means small change.

The government’s track record on the issue has ensured that there is no reliable estimate of the money flowing into the NGOs and what is done with the funds. According to a recent estimate, India has about 3.5 million NGOs, which roughly translates into an NGO for every 400 people. The amount of money flowing into the NGO sector is also the subject of widespread speculation, ranging as it does from 40,000 crore on the lower side to double that amount on the higher side. The money involved is huge enough to compare with a state government’s debt! Delhi-based NGOs, according to a report compiled three years ago, received Rs 5,800 crore, the highest in the country, followed by NGOs in Tamil Nadu, which received Rs 4,800 crore.

There are a plethora of organisations that are managing to hoodwink the authorities by floating different organisations under the same primary recipient, which remain on paper alone. The number of such ‘benami’ beneficiaries is not inconsiderable. The IB and other agencies in their hurry to appease a vociferous Right-wing lobby have obviously not done their homework properly.

There is a specific wing of the Union Home Ministry that monitors foreign contributions, and every year, the ministry’s annual report puts out the number of organisations banned from receiving foreign funds due to the “questionable nature” of their activities — the number, from the time that the then minister of state for internal security P Chidambaram told Parliament 25 years ago until now, has consistently been in three figures. It has been more than once admitted by the government that many organisations on the banned list continue to receive the benefits of largesse in spite of the ban.

Among the various generously favoured ones, according to reports, is the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), which between 2007 and 2012 received over Rs 11.5 crore in foreign donations from a range of international institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Various influential think-tanks are bankrolled by a range of foreign donors; the think-tanks may differ in their ideological orientation, but one thing is certain: the current establishment for all its apparent zeal is unlikely to touch the RSS and its affiliates, who are big-time beneficiaries.

Some of the donors include the high-profile Ford Foundation, Google Foundation, the International Development Research Centre, Economic and Social Research Council, Hewlett Foundation and Ikea Social Initiative. Foreign funding is a big-time activity today, unlike say three decades ago, when it was dominated by relatively small-time anti-poverty projects in slums and coastal villages. Now the centre of gravity has shifted to big systemic campaigns relating to national facilities like dams and nuclear parks. Think-tanks and fashionable recipients, which never tire of demanding transparency from the government, are themselves cagey about their own opaqueness!

The indefatigable James Petras has systematically exposed the manner in which several of the NGOs proliferating in the Third World are actually treading on popular socio-political movements and consciously preventing them from spreading at the grassroots. The concerns of the NGOs are seldom at the macro-level and they invariably seek to intervene in those areas where radical movements are active. Hundreds of controversial outfits handsomely aided from abroad are trying to prevent people-oriented projects from gaining ground and in trying to do this, they are covertly or overtly aided by the host governments keen on preserving the status quo. The manner in which all organisations distinct from the traditional Left are glibly termed Maoist or Left-Wing Extremists by an uncaring and irresponsible political establishment and a more-or-less somnolent media effectively negates the growth of real people-oriented movements at the grassroots.

Hark back to that hugely instructive example from neighbouring Bangladesh, where two-and-a-half decades ago an intrepid activist-doctor Zafrullah Chaudhury authored a bold anti-transnational drug policy for his poor country and won encomiums for doing so, only to be subsequently hounded by a plethora of personalised cases and inspired calumny to an extent where not only was he put in the dock but the drug policy he had pioneered was also put on the backburner. The ubiquitous MNCs were soon back, as were foreign-supported NGOs who proliferated at the grassroots. Ironically, some of those who were active along with Chaudhury also turned against him. Examples are legion across the globe of countries that have experienced pro-people movements at the grassroots being upturned by a marauding foreign hand, aided by ‘helpful’ governments that look the other way!

It will be downright unfair and empirically wrong to club together NGOs and tar them with the same negative brush as the IB and the Modi government seems to be now doing. There have been some important social change initiatives in various areas that are not all bad. Extreme caution is recommended in dealing with the issue, for blanket bans and sweeping generalisations will be hugely counter-productive. One cannot overlook the unpleasant fact that the Indian corporate sector and the government have not exactly been role models in genuine pro-people intervention at the grassroots. The tale of Indian philanthropy makes for dismal reading and the conscientious Ratan Tatas and Azim Premjis are ever so rare.

Any unilateral ban on all foreign funding of NGOs is going to be extremely hazardous, and definitely the country will not be overwhelmed by swadeshi donors to make up the gap that will ensue if indeed that kind of unilateral ban comes to pass. As far as the NGOs go, if they — foreign- funded or otherwise — want to have a voice in shaping the national debate, then the people should decide the terms of the discourse. The establishment may be over-exerting itself to hijack the mojo of the well-meaning NGOs, but it is for the latter to fight their case.

After Greenpeace, govt may act against more NGOs  - Chetan Chauhan (Hindustan Times, June 20, 2014)

The government is set to act against some anti-genetically modified (GM) NGOs named in the IB report, a day after it cracked down on foreign funding received by Greenpeace.
Official sources said Vandana Shiva of Navdanya, Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign and Kavita Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) – all named in the Intelligence Bureau report – are next in line for prohibition of foreign funding.
Home ministry sources said it was examining whether these organisations also violated norms of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)  that say foreign funds can only be used for the purposes they had been provided. “Funds meant for education cannot be used for advocacy,” a government functionary said.
A second leaked IB report on Wednesday said that opposition against mining and GM was a “significant threat to national economic activity”.
The home ministry had earlier revoked the permission to receive foreign funds of Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), an organisation associated with ASHA. INSAF had filed a petition against the order in the Supreme Court.
Reacting to the move, Kurunganti told HT that the government should investigate the foreign hand behind the IB report.
The document had also named Aruna Rodrigues and Prashant Bhushan for filing PILs in the Supreme Court against GM crops.  Rodrigues called the IB report an insult to Parliamentarians who had recommended a moratorium on GM crops. Bhushan said that the government will use the IB report to create a public opinion against organizations fighting destructive projects.
On Wednesday, the home ministry had asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to not allow the flow of funds into Greenpeace India from two international organizations — Greenpeace International and ClimateWorks Foundation — without its prior approval. The IB report had alleged that 97% of Greenpeace India’s Rs. 45 crore foreign funding in the last seven years had come from these two organizations to campaign against coal block allocations countrywide.
The report, however, didn’t specify if Greenpeace had violated provisions of the FCRA, under which the ministry issued instructions to RBI. It only alleged that the NGO is assisted by US-based anti-coal organizations and had carried out protests at “iconic” backdrops for publicity.
Greenpeace India’s executive director Samit Aich said the ministry action was part of its strategy to discredit the organisation and thereby remove obstacles for pushing fast clearances. “Discrediting Greenpeace will not save the world from climate change,” he added.
Ministry officials, however, stressed that the move didn’t bar Greenpeace from receiving foreign funds, citing the case of Netherlands-based NGO Cordaid, which received funds despite being on a prior-approval list. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had also been put under the prior-permission category earlier, officials added.


Compilation - 18 June
Six Delhi NGOs in IB watchlist say thank you for noticing us

Written by Amitav Ranjan , Shalini Narayan | New Delhi | June 13, 2014 4:41 am
The document claimed INSAF used foreign funds during 2009-12 to pay
“at least 15 non-FCRA and 26 FCRA organisations.
Six non-governmental organisations, which figure in an Intelligence
Bureau report on NGOs stalling development projects, operate out of a
single building in Katwaria Sarai in South Delhi.

The IB report on the ‘Impact of NGOs on Development’  said inquiries
into “pattern, design and funding of protests at nuclear plants and
uranium mines” revealed a “superior network” of pan-India
organisations closely linked to territorial outfits that were also
indulging in agitation against GM foods and the POSCO steel plant in

“The manner of free-funding for these NGOs is observed from the fact
that ASHA and its IFSF campaign are headquartered with four prominent
anti-nuclear NGOs at a single address — A-124/6, Katwaria Sarai, New
Delhi — which is an unmarked, small, two-room flat,” the report

“These four NGOs are Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), Coalition for
Nuclear Disarmament & Peace (CNDP), Popular Education & Action Centre
(PEACE) and Jan Sangharsh Samanvaya Samiti, the latter being the focal
point for anti-Fatehabad nuclear power plant,” it added.

Its section on anti-nuclear activism said CNDP, INSAF and PEACE were
at the forefront of protests against building of nuclear energy plants
in India and accused them of coordinating radiation leak studies and
instigating protests to stall construction work at nuclear sites.

ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) and IFSF (India
For Safe Food) have been identified in the IB report as among the four
NGOs — the other two being Navdanya and Gene Campaign — which have
been leading anti-GM food activism in India.

“The above NGOs were active facilitators of news articles, liaison
with other activists and social media activism which contributed to
the four-year old moratorium on Bt Brinjal and the ban regimes
recommended by parliamentary standing committee (August 2012),
Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Supreme Court in October
2012,” the IB said.
INSAF, involved in the anti-Jaitapur nuclear plant activism, was
accused of organising and paying for anti-POSCO events “with active
participation of most NGOs headquartered with it at Katwaria Sarai”.
The IB cautioned that INSAF was now opposing the Delhi-Mumbai
Industrial Corridor, asking activists to warn farmers that they would
become landless owing to government acquisition of land for the
project. The document claimed INSAF used foreign funds during 2009-12
to pay “at least 15 non-FCRA and 26 FCRA organisations”, including an
individual to protest against the extra-judicial executions in
Manipur. Its FCRA registration was frozen in 2013 as transfers by an
FCRA NGO to non-FCRA NGOs violated Section 7 of FCRA 2010.
When The Indian Express visited the Katwaria Sarai building on
Thursday, it found that two of the three floors there are occupied by
the four NGOs mentioned in the report — INSAF, CNDP, PEACE and Jan
Sangharsh Samanvaya Samiti.

Anil Chaudhary, convenor of PEACE, said there was nothing wrong if
they were all operating out of the same address since “we are all
like-minded organisations and there is no harm in allowing cost-cuts
for infrastructure, especially when we are fighting for a common
cause”. He said a monthly rental of Rs 15,000 was being paid for each

Chaudhary, who is also a member of INSAF, said the CNDP was not a
registered NGO but “a campaign by individuals with no foreign funding,
no membership record… the primary focus of the campaign is nuclear
disarmament and its financial repercussions”.

“CNDP was formed in 2000 after Pokhran and became part of PEACE which
was formed in 1995. My only question is how has a document of national
security been leaked? And if there is a ban on NGOs going against
government policy, why aren’t such rules specified in the FCRA?”
“PEACE and INSAF are registered under FCRA. The IB report has not been
formulated overnight. It has involved years of investigation. IB
personnel have visited us every time there has been a campaign or an
awareness programme. During President Clinton’s visit to India in
2000, the IB personnel visited our office to inquire what we were up
to,” he said.

PEACE has 16 members and five trainers who deal with various issues
relating to displacement, water, NREGA. They also train field workers
of smaller NGOs. Nuclear disarmament, Chaudhary said, is only one of
the many issues they raise.

The INSAF, he said, is an umbrella body comprising 750 organisations,
including PEACE. “INSAF cannot have individuals as its members. Only
organisations can be part of it. Elections are held to top posts every
two years. INSAF and PEACE each receive funding of Rs one crore a
year, the main foreign contributor being Germany. All this has been
submitted in our annual report to the FCRA. Why are they creating a
problem now,” Chaudhary said.

Last year, the registration of INSAF was suspended for 180 days in
“public interest” and its bank accounts frozen. This order was
challenged in the Delhi High Court  and the suspension order was
subsequently withdrawn.

“We learnt of the IB report only through the newspaper, we never
received any official correspondence from the department. We entertain
the personnel the same way we entertain any and every visitor who
comes here. We are very clear on what we are fighting for. The IB may
say what they want. But as a small organisation, we can’t be behind a
mass movement. Our only way to spread awareness is through small
competitions in schools and workshops. If there are rules, we are
following them. In fact, we are glad the IB has named us. At least now
our voices will be heard,” Chaudhary said.

How India treats its NGOs
Maja Daruwala
| June 16, 2014 12:12 am
True democracies celebrate involvement of citizens, make consultation a habit


In a case of giving a dog a bad name and hanging him, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has submitted a report damning foreign-funded NGOs for stalling development and giving to Western powers undue leverage over India. Notwithstanding that it is a confidential document, it has been widely reported in the press, though no official confirmation of its receipt has been made.

The report suggests that the activities of some not-for-profits account for a 2 to 3 per cent loss in the GDP. How the loss has been calculated is uncertain. Nor can we tell how this compares with, say, the losses incurred through environmental degradation, rampant corruption, crony capitalism or money stashed abroad. That aside, the report exploits a longstanding suspicion of NGOs and civil society organisations, a legacy of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Emergency and her favourite defence for her failings, the covert “foreign hand”.

NGOs are legal entities, like companies and cooperatives. They are formed by like-minded individuals who come together to promote their ideas or products. The Constitution allows these collective activities under the right to associate and to follow one’s livelihood, as long as their aims and objectives are legal and non-violent. The right to associate isn’t limited to associating with fellow countrymen but extends to associating with like-minded groups all across the world. Just as companies do business with counterparts abroad, NGOs can receive funds and share aspirations across borders. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. Myriad laws require all associations to be transparent and report regularly. Each year, like everyone else, NGOs must provide audited accounts and submit to the discipline of the Income Tax Act, the Societies Registration Act and labour laws.

In fact, NGOs are unfairly overregulated. Every rule singles them out for extra restriction and scrutiny. In the 1990s, when the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act was repealed and the more liberal Foreign Exchange Management Act was brought in to benefit individuals and companies, NGOs were quite unjustifiably kept out of this liberalisation. An especially severe and more discretion-dependent regime was brought in under an inexplicably draconian Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which allows for outright interference with internal management.

Licence raj forces NGOs to jump through hoops — they have to apply for fresh registration every five years, and it prohibits foreign funding for any activity dubbed “political” by the government and disallows the usual avenues of investment or equities so that they remain ever-dependent on charity. Despite scams and cheats, like Saradha, which have  brought misery to millions and have held back decades of development, the goal of working for profit alone is deemed naturally laudable, while associating for a cause is seen as meriting suspicion. Profit-making companies are regulated by the registrar of companies but NGOs come under the home ministry, as if this sector is inherently a national security risk.

NGO voices can be a nuisance, for their dissent, their insistence on giving a voice to the poor, for pointing out inconvenient truths, challenging government action and insisting on accountability. But their work goes well beyond perceived pesky obstructionism.

It was civil society collectives like the Servants of India Society (founded by Gopal Krishna Gokhale), Dayanand Anglo-Vedic Education Society (founded by Lala Hansraj), the People’s Education Society (founded by B.R. Ambedkar) and the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College (founded by Syed Ahmed Khan) that fuelled the independence struggle and spread, beyond boundaries, the ideas of non-violence as a weapon against oppression. Today, NGOs, foreign-funded or otherwise, are deeply involved in the expansion of freedoms and improvements to quality of life. They implement huge government schemes, such as midday meal programmes, mobile health clinics and skills development for rural and urban youth. These are themselves supported by foreign aid routed through government. Organisations such as Sewa help hundreds of thousands of women and are the self-help model for other nations. The women’s empowerment movement, the push against bonded labour, against corruption, for reform of institutions like the police and other national campaigns for ordinary people’s right to information, right to work, housing, education and food security have been fuelled by NGOs working in partnership with progressives abroad. Their contribution to the GDP must surely be incalculable.

Undoubtedly, vociferous individuals and active associations sometimes step on bureaucratic toes, but the last 20 years under both the BJP and the Congress have seen a welcome growth of citizen participation in governance. Yet, the report allegedly castigates agenda-setting, drafting documents, writing in the media, highlighting scholars-turned-activists and lobbying diplomats and governments for a cause.

It resentfully points out that NGOs combine with outside interests to criticise the government at forums that look at child rights, labour laws, women’s issues and environmental protection. But these are international forums that the government has voluntarily submitted itself to. International evaluation of progress and shortfalls encourages change at home. How can this be bad for progress and development? For instance, it is thanks to civil society efforts at home and abroad that government is considering a much improved anti-torture law. Who but the most cruel and insensitive would think that to be meddling? All wisdom does not rest in government or at home. That is why governments seek aid and corporations financial infusions and technological know-how. Why deny this to others in civil society who work for public interest and not for profit?

Name-calling in the press has a ready audience, and insults like “anti-national” stick even when there is no evidence. It is unfair. It forebodes an intolerance that calls to mind Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. To see dissent, debate and critique as anti-national is too petty, especially for a new government that is powerful and unassailable. Its bureaucracy has been given the go ahead to repair, reconstruct, be decisive and been promised protection as it moves boldly forward. This should not be seen as an opportunity to steamroll inconvenient civil society associations that nevertheless command a legitimate space in our democracy and will populate the “inclusive” in the inclusive development promised. Suppression of legitimate voices and activities creates the space for underground and violent actors when this is the last thing a “civil” society wants or identifies with. To hold that a cry for justice is anti-development or anti-national is an affront to the mass of people who only want to be part of the benefits and not lose out into destitution.

India’s role in international forums as the leading voice demanding an end to Apartheid is written in golden letters across history. Today, India is lauded as a living example of a diverse, noisy, flourishing democracy even as it struggles to overcome poverty. This is a singular signifier of its legitimacy and leadership and what sets it apart from China in the finest possible way. Much of this is attributable to the presence of a vibrant civil society.

True democracies celebrate the involvement of citizens, deepen it at every level and make consultation a habit. Bureaucrats, law-makers and institutions alike should be working hard to include and protect civil society and NGOs rather than trying to bully and frighten people whose only weapon is words and the ability to openly organise while submitting to the regulatory regime imposed on them. As it seeks its rightful role in international affairs, India, as one of the leading democracies of the world will be judged, in part, by the way it treats its civil society.
The writers work at the  Commonwealth Human Rights  Initiative, Delhi

No Proof Required: In defence of Greenpeace
Surjit S Bhalla
| June 14, 2014 12:00 am
Law-abiding NGOs, foreign or domestic, are an asset to society as they enlarge the debate through 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.

Report on NGO funds: Is the Intelligence Bureau on a witch hunt?
by Jay Mazoomdaar
  Jun 16, 2014
The first thing first. All NGOs should be made accountable. They must make full and public disclosure of their funding and expenditure. They must also be made answerable under the RTI Act. The voluntary sector is a den of corruption and needs to be set straight.

But the leaked IB report on NGOs does not make any such attempt. If it were serious, it could have taken cue from, instead of Narendra Modi’s 2006 speech, a meticulous 2013 report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) –India’s funds to NGOs squandered–that details how over Rs 1,000 crore of government funding to the voluntary sector is largely decided by bribes and political influence. But that was not in IB’s terms of reference for what turned out to be a witch hunt.

Instead of going after NGOs that are criminally liable under India’s various financial laws, the government decided to target dissent. Now, IB is presumablya fantastic bunch of our better cops. But are they qualified to quantify economic losses or assess the fitness of growth policies or the legitimacy of ecological or health concerns? Should we have a crack team of the Planning Commission members identifying terrorist cells next?
Representational image. AFP.

Since IB is an authority on neither economy nor environment, its report is a laundry list of organisations and individuals who do not agree with its master the government’s policies. That disagreement, ostensibly, is against national interest. But who decides national interest?

Do the promoters of our mainstream policy framework, including the BJP, the Congress and most major political parties, have any monopoly over India’s future? Does questioning their prescriptions for economic growth make one a criminal, even a traitor?
If we are still not a nation of bigots that wants to criminalise dissent, is our problem then with foreign-funded dissent? But then, the IB report names many small NGOs, mostly in Gujarat, that never received foreign grants. Others, such as the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace and People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, have categorically denied any external funding.

Many NGOs do accept foreign funds. But how can accepting foreign grants alone incriminate an organisation as anti-national? Is there any evidence that NGOs use foreign funds to target Indian companies alone? What about foreign-funded groups opposing an American Monsanto, a Korean Posco anda Russian Rosatom (Kudankulam) in India? And if FDI is welcome to revive the economy, why resent foreign funds to NGOs that scrutinise that revival or offer alternative roadmaps for growth? One can always debate and debunk their claims with facts but what with demanding punitive action on that ground?

Objectivity demands that the state agencies that promote and facilitate development projects not be the solo scrutiniser of the same. Only NGOs not funded by government or corporate money, even if they have agendas and their studies throw up sensational findings, can provide the necessary checks and balances in a system heavily geared towards corporate and political interests.

Of course, the NGOs working on environment, health and human rights are a threat to corporate interests in mining, industries or GMO. By declaring that they are also a threat to India’s economic security, is the government accepting that the national interest is basically corporate interest or, by extension, the mainstream political interest, given thatVedanta (Sterlite) has funded both the BJP and Congress?

Beyond the trial going on in TV studios and social media, the Home ministry has sent detailed questionnaires to some NGOs seeking details of their funding and activities. So why are the NGOs alarmed if they have nothing criminal to hide? They are because even those NGOs that have not done anything wrong can be taken to task under Rule 3 of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Rules (2011).

Before it was "strengthened" by the UPA II, the act imposed restrictions only on involvement in electoral politics. The new sweeping and vague definition covers practically everything, including “objectives of political nature”and even “common methods of political action”such as dharna, rally or strikes. A number of NGOs, such as INSAF, have already had their accounts frozen and licenses suspended in, what else,perceived national interest. The NGOs named in the IB report have reasons to fear because the government does not need specific charges to nail them.

It is anybody’s guess what course the Home ministry will take once they hear from the NGOs which have already made their positions clear in public. But does the timing of what is certainly a deliberate leak of the ‘classified’IB report tell us something? Since the leak, the government has taken a slew of decisions that grossly undermine environmental, livelihood and human rights concerns.

The height of the Narmada dam will be raised. The sensitive eco zones of the higher Himalayas will be ruined as defence projects get priority along China borders up to 100 km from the Line of Actual Control. The MoEF reversed the decision of UPA II that barred the Navy from constructing a radar station in an Andaman island which is the only home of an endangered hornbill species. The government has decided to soften some rules in the Forest Rights Act and Forest Conservation Act to step up economic activities in Naxal-affected states which account for some of the country’s best forests and the majority of our tribal population.

To many Indians, these steps are to cheer for. But there are others, the NGOs and activists, who have fought against such moves long and hard. These usual suspects who would have criticised and opposed each of these decisions in every public forum possible were put on the back foot by a timely leak and are now busy defending themselves against a bunch of specious charges. That we have not seen any debate in the media on these recent mega clearances is the real marvel of the leaked IB report.

Anti-nuclear activists call IB report on NGOs a ‘cock and bull story’
by FP Staff 
Jun 13, 2014
Five anti-nuclear activists who have been named in the recent Intelligence Bureau (IB) report that claims that foreign-funded NGOs are having a ‘negative impact’ on India’s economy today rejected the charge that they had received foreign funds.

Describing the IB report as a "cock and bull story", Praful Bidwai, a senior columnist and founder member of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), said the report was based on "false allegations and on a series of innuendos that try to establish guilt by mere association". Bidwai was speaking at a press conference. The IB report, he said, was “alarmist” and was nothing but “scare-mongering.”

CNDP is one of the anti-nuclear movements that find mention in the 21-page IB report that was submitted to the Prime Minister on 3 June.

"CNDP, of which Achin (Vinaik) and I are founder members, takes no money at all from foreign sources, corporate sources or government sources. We are entirely funded by our own individual contributions. We hold meetings in different cities and we bear the travel of expenses on ourselves," said Bidwai.

The IB report claims that a ‘superior network’ of foreign funded NGOs were creating "obstacles in India’s energy plans" by supporting agitations against nuclear power plants, uranium mines, coal-fired power plants and mega industrial projects in different parts of the country.

Likening the IB report to ‘witch-hunt’, CNDP founder member Vinaik, who recently retired as professor of International Relations from Delhi University, said "We are concerned that the ground is being prepared, by whom we cannot say, to oppose and discredit a whole range of popular movements by targeting NGOs that are providing support to such struggles and resistances. We are fearful that this is a kind of witch-hunt with longer term implications to repress all kinds of popular struggles."

The "quality" of the IB report also came in for a lot of attack from the anti-nuclear activists.

"If these are the kinds of inputs from the Intelligence Bureau based on which India is going to be governed, God save this country. It is absolute conspiracy theory without any basis," said retired IAS officer and power policy expert MG Devashayam, who has been involved in protests against nuclear plants in Kudankulam and Fatehabad.

Calling for the IB report to be placed in Parliament and be debated on the floor of the House, the former Director General of Tripura Police KS Subramanian, who worked in the Intelligence Bureau five years, said that it was "intriguing" that the IB had been authorised to write such a report.

"The job of the IB is to deal with subjects like terrorism, sabotage, espionage, counter-intelligence and so on... I don’t know who authorised them to write it," said Subramanian.

Former Navy Chief L Ramdas and SP Udayakumar, convener of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, addressing the press conference via Skype, questioned the selective manner in which the IB report had been leaked to the press.

"How did this report that was filed by a top intelligence agency in the country and submitted to the topmost authority, the PMO, get leaked? Who leaked this report?" asked Udayakumar.

The IB report, he said, had sent out the wrong message to the youth by discrediting democratic struggles. "When people like us are discredited and dishonoured, the younger generation will not believe in democratic means of opposition and may take to violence," said Udayakumar.

The anti-nuclear activist who has been leading the struggle against the nuclear plant in Kudankulam also said that he would take the IB to court for jeopardising the safety and security of his family.

"This report affects me personally. I am consulting with my lawyers about safeguarding my dignity and honour and protecting the security interests of me and my family members. I will take IB to legal task," he said.

Fault lines: Talk of rights and become the enemy of the State

Subir Ghosh
Monday, 16 June 2014 - 9:49am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

In a milieu where bedlam and mutual suspicion hold discourse to ransom, it is difficult not only to find voices of sanity, it is as challenging to remain circumspect oneself. One invariably ends up believing not the truth, but what suits one’s own predilections and narratives. It is this unsettling milieu that reigns supreme in the country today, and in such a frenzied backdrop comes a shoddily-drafted document that unabashedly spins a conspiracy yarn so fantastic that one would gleefully accept it as the gospel truth unless one were to be politically agnostic.

The report in question is the one prepared by the Intelligence Bureau that was leaked out to the press last week. Yes, the same one that blames “a significant number of Indian NGOs”, funded by donors based in the US, UK, Germany and the Netherlands, for creating “an environment which lends itself to stalling development projects.” The title of the sloppily-written text is definitive: Concerted efforts by select foreign-funded NGOs to ‘take down’ Indian development projects; and its tone is downright accusatory and assertive. Most of it, as we know, is old hat.
The 21-page document has, predictably and understandably, stirred a hornet’s nest. That, of course, could well have been the ulterior motive of the person who chose to leak a document that was distinctly marked ‘secret’; but one could only be hazarding ‘calculated’ guesses here.

What is, however, markedly manifest is that the acrimonious debate now is increasingly hovering over NGOs. Most, as most are wont to, are however missing the forest for the trees. There are good NGOs and bad, rich NGOs and poor, foreign-funded NGOs and unfunded NGOs. But then, the issue at hand is hardly about NGOs; it is about getting the message, not the comments.

So what is this report that has left civil society so rattled and angry, after all, about? The essence, de facto, is summarised in the second para itself: “Identified foreign donors cleverly disguise their donations as funding for protection of human rights, just deal for project-affected displaced persons, protection of livelihood of indigenous people, protecting religious freedom, etc. These foreign donors lead local NGOs to provide field reports, which are used to build a record against India and serve as tools for the strategic foreign policy interests of Western governments.” From Greenpeace International and National Alliance of Anti-Nuclear Movements to Action Aid and Amnesty International, all have been named and damned.

The document subsequently reads like a worn-out litany of woes — those, essentially, being of the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Except, that the listed-out woes are couched as persuasive allegations. Almost all the major peoples’ movements that had raged during the Congress rule have been cited — from the anti-POSCO agitation to the anti-GM campaign. In other words, all the changes that the Manmohan Singh dispensation could not enforce find mention here, except for the foreign direct investment (FDI) issue. All organisations that played major or minor roles in the movements have been accused of subterfuge. The ‘take down’ phrase occurs like a leitmotif throughout the document. The NGOs concerned have been accused of stalling development. As if that was their raison d’ĂȘtre.

The project, commissioned by the Congress rulers, ostensibly had only one laid-out objective: make a catalogue of NGOs that became stumbling blocks for then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ruthless, unrepentant development juggernaut. That’s the reason why they are portrayed ad nauseam as “anti-development” throughout. That’s also why the allegations come with a price tag: the “negative impact” of the NGOs’ activities have been pegged at 2-3 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) growth; but don’t ask how they came to such a preposterous conclusion. In other words, if the former Prime Minister could not achieve his cherished double-digit jump, it was because of these diabolical, venal NGOs. And what better way to do this than raise the foreign bogey in the same vein: that these are primarily funded by foreign donors with vested interests. So, dollars and pounds are bad for NGOs, but presumably good for corporates. You also now know why the FDI imbroglio was skirted altogether in this IB denunciation.

The report itself is not referenced (the IB could doubtless take lessons from Greenpeace on how to write meticulously-referenced reports backed by irrefutable facts), parts of it have uncanny resemblances with a book that had claimed that many NGOs harbour an anti-Hindu agenda. Moreover, sections of the report that is signed by IB joint director SA Rizvi and was submitted on June 3, have been lifted directly from a speech made by Narendra Modi in 2006. This is where the dots between the present and former Prime Ministers get joined. Singh was blinded, like Gollum, in his lust for development; Modi rode to power conjuring up his development dream. It was a fait accompli that Singh’s questions should fit the answers that Modi seeks. For many, there’s little difference between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Both are alleged to be working for the same corporations and industries, driving the same agendas.
But in this din over NGOs, their sources of funding and schemas, the core issues are going unheard. Irrespective of whether it suits your political/economic narrative or not, the fact remains that the issues behind all the movements revolved around people, and have still not died down. The issues, ignore them at your own peril, will you, are genuine and have been written about widely. Those include environmental concerns, flagrant violations of the laws of this country, and utter disregard of communities and their rights. If raising issues that affect rights and livelihoods of people is anti-national, medieval times are certainly down upon us.

The IB report, needless to say, is not wrong in listing the peoples movements; but it is way off the mark in attributing subversive motives to NGOs. By turning a blind eye to peoples’ concerns and grievances, the bureau has effected a brazen exercise in mendaciousness. Leaving the people out of a debate is not only a blatant indulgence in half-truths, the act is in effect anti-people. Democracy, the last one had heard of the term, was supposed to have been about people.

The author is News Editor, dna

Dissent is now a crime
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
| June 17, 2014, 07.06 am IST

The report of the Intelligence Bureau on the “impact” that non-government organisations have on India’s “development” is a case of extreme paranoia on the part of a section of the country’s establishment.

This section believes that those who are opposed to their notions of development — which include the proliferation of nuclear energy and widespread use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture — are not just anti-national but also acting at the behest of foreign powers who do not want India to develop.

Interestingly, many of those opposed to the activities of foreign-funded civil society organisations as well as those who actually run such NGOs belong to the country’s elite. One group which spares no effort in extolling the virtues of foreign direct investment, also conjures conspiracies when it comes to ascribing motives to those who speak up for those displaced by mining, irrigation and industrial projects.

The first group firmly believes that growth is the mantra for the country’s economic problems. The other section espouses environmentally-friendly policies and believes that inequalities must come down if sustainable development is to take place.

The two groups represent contrasting worldviews. To use simplistic catch-phrases, one is Right-wing, neo-liberal and market-friendly while the other is Leftist, Luddite and emphasises redistribution before growth. One believes that encouraging the private sector is the best way forward while the other is in favour of government-sponsored welfare schemes for the poor. Both sections want to engage with the West and the rest of the world, but on different terms.  

The current debate on the role of NGOs is reminiscent of the polarised discourse on Christian missionaries who “convert” tribals and poor Hindus by “alluring” them. The anti-missionary viewpoint can be found in the books written by Arun Shourie, including one entitled Harvesting Our Souls. The contrary view is that if the Indian elite have been less than fair to society’s underprivileged, why should they grudge the activities of those (including missionaries from India and abroad) who have tried to organise the poor. Many missionaries are perceived as activists. One such individual named in the IB report is Thomas Kochherry, who fought relentless to safeguard the interests of Kerala’s traditional fisherfolk and who passed away recently.

By criticising NGOs allegedly opposed to the “Gujarat model of development”, the IB — which one of the world’s oldest internal security agencies — may have sought to please Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In fact, one paragraph in the report seems to have been inspired (if not plagiarised) from a speech that Mr Modi made in September 2006 during the launch of a book with a rather revealing title: NGOs, Activists and Foreign Funds: Anti-Nation Industry.

On that occasion, Mr Modi had lashed out against those he described as “five-star activists” by remarking: “Funds are obtained from abroad; an NGO is set up; a few articles are commissioned; a PR (public relations) firm is recruited and, slowly, with the help of the media, an image is created. And then awards are procured from foreign countries to enhance this image. Such a vicious cycle... no one in Hindustan dares raise a finger, no matter how many the failings of the awardee...”

Mr Modi is in illustrious company. His predecessor Manmohan Singh was suspicious of NGOs using foreign funds who were opposed to the establishment of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Dr Singh and former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar were both opposed to NGOs who were resisting field trials for genetically-modified food crops. In January 2013, speaking at the centenary session of the Indian Science Congress in Kolkata, Dr Singh described the issues of nuclear energy and GM foods as “complex issues” that “cannot be settled by faith, emotion and fear but by structured debate, analysis and enlightenment.”

The tone of the IB report is not very different from the raving and ranting against an unseen “foreign hand” during the Emergency regime of Indira Gandhi between June 1975 and March 1977. It was during this period that the government enacted the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, which was amended during the second UPA government in 2010.

While there are more than a million NGOs operating in the country, roughly 50,000 are currently registered under the FCRA. After the law was amended, the permission granted to some 4,000 NGOs to receive foreign funds was revoked.

It is nobody’s case that all foreign-funded NGOs are run by bleeding-heart activists who only have the welfare of the deprived and the indigent on top of their minds. There is no dearth of people who abuse their association with international civil society groups to go on expensive junkets across the world and live a rather good life. Such individuals can be found across different strata in Indian society.

If anyone, including those who run NGOs, is found to be violating the law of the land, the law should be strictly enforced against such people and organisations. 
But why is the voluntary sector being targeted at present? The IB report appears to have been written and deliberately leaked with a specific purpose — to create an atmosphere that would encourage some in the government to come down hard on dissenters and those whose views and activities they don’t like. It’s as simple as that.

This writer’s name figures in the IB report for having produced and directed a 45-minute documentary film in English and Hindi entitled Coal Curse/Koyla Ya Kala Shaap in 2013 which was financially supported by Greenpeace India. Both versions of the film are available for free viewing on YouTube. The film juxtaposes the Coalgate scandal (which was, incidentally, highlighted by the ruling party) with the larger socio-political and economic issues surrounding the use of coal.

It includes a case study of the Singrauli region in central India, often described as the country’s “electricity hub”. The film argues that what represents an investment opportunity for both public sector and private corporate entities is a “resource curse” for local populations whose livelihoods have been devastated together with the ecology of the region. It is a separate matter altogether that I have been writing about and making documentary films on this subject for many years now.

In conclusion, one must assert that there are always certain exceptions to the rule and no action will ever be taken against particular NGOs. These are the now-defunct National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi and the nearly-90-year-old Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

There are also two other organisations that have received funds from foreign sources (including the Vedanta corporate group) whose activities are unlikely to be scrutinised by the ministry of home affairs, under which the IB operates. These are the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The writer is an educator and commentator

8. Generously motivated
Vandana Shiva

Jun 18, 2014:

"Upholding our laws to defend biosafety is in national interest. But this is not the motivation guiding the IB, whose report repeats the false claims of the GMO industry about Bt cotton."

Intelligence agencies are supposed to protect the safety and security of a nation and its citizens from external threats. Tragically, we now have a report from the Intelligence Bureau that promotes the very foreign interests that are threatening our seed and food sovereignty, the livelihood of our farmers and the health of our citizens. The IB report, which was commissioned by the UPA government but submitted to the newly elected NDA government, blindly promotes genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods.
The report names seven agitations pursuing “anti-developmental activities”. The “Anti-Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)” activism is ranked third and this section begins with this sentence: “The pro-GMO debate in India centres round the resounding success of Bt cotton in the last 10 years.” This sounds more like propaganda of the GMO industry than the result of an investigation by an Indian intelligence agency.
A later paragraph further reinforces the evidence that the IB was not investigating but transmitting messages from the foreign GMO industry and its lobbyists. In paragraph 35, the report cites Ronald Herring of Cornell University. Herring has systematically attacked Indian farmers, scientists and plant breeders and Cornell University has become a hub of the pro-GMO lobby. Cornell worked with USAID and Monsanto/Mahyco to try and impose Bt brinjal on India, unscientifically, undemocratically and illegally. That is why the then environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, ordered a moratorium on Bt brinjal after organising seven public hearings across the country.
India is governed by a biosafety law embodied in the “Rules 1989 for the manufacture/use/imp-ort/export and storage of hazardous micro-organisms/genetic engineered organisms and cells”. Biosafety laws are designed to protect the biodiversity, the environment and public health from the negative impacts of GMOs. I was appointed by the UN in an expert group to frame the international law on biosafety. I also worked with our government to strengthen our biosafety framework. The IB is clearly ignorant of the laws of the land, as well as our parliamentary and judicial processes. That’s why, in paragraph 34, it states that five individuals “contributed to the three year moratorium on Bt brinjal and the ban/moratorium regimes recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (August 9, 2012) and the technical expert committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court.”
The IB, like the foreign interests seemingly influencing its analysis, clearly holds the institutions created by the Constitution of India — the government, Parliament, the courts — in contempt of foreign commercial interests. It presents them as being manipulated by five individuals.
The IB report is not just biased in favour of foreign MNCs, it is also factually inaccurate. It states in paragraph 31 that the “anti-GMF activism was initiated in 2003 by Vandana Shiva”.
Let me inform the IB of the facts. In 1987, when I was attending a conference on biotechnology, organised by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation at the UN in Geneva and Bogeve, the old agrichemical industry stated clearly that they were going to introduce GMOs in order to take patents on seeds, so that they could collect royalties from every farmer, in every season, in every country of the world. That is when I committed myself to defend our country’s seed and food sovereignty.
In 1998, when Monsanto, a US-based MNC, started field trials of its GMO Bt cotton illegally, I sued them in our Supreme Court for violation of our biosafety laws. That is why they could not commercialise their Bt cotton until 2002.
Upholding our national laws to defend our biosafety and seed and food sovereignty is a democratic imperative and in national interest. Clearly these are not the motivations guiding the IB. The IB report repeats the false claims and myths of the GMO industry about Bt cotton. It hides the fact that in 1996-97, before Bt cotton, we exported 168.2 million bales of cotton, and in 2012-13, after Bt, we are importing 145.9 million bales. It hides the failure of Bt cotton to control pests, and that farmers are having to spend more on Bt pesticides. It hides the reality of the falling yields of Bt cotton. It hides the reality that the high cost of seeds for which Monsanto collects royalties has left our farmers trapped in debt which has pushed more than 284,000 farmers to suicide since 1995. Most of these suicides are concentrated in the Bt cotton regions.
An intelligence agency committed to national interest would have addressed the epidemic of farmers’ suicides. Instead, the IB report talks of a 2-3 per cent drag in the growth of the national economy because of those of us working for the protection of our ecological heritage and people’s rights — the seven agitations pursuing “anti-developmental activities” are the ones against nuclear power plants, coal fired power plants, genetically modified organisms, Posco and Vedanta in Orissa, against extractive industries in the Northeast, and the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Each life is precious and priceless. But since the IB has put a loss figure, we decided to assess the cost of farmers’ suicides using the US’ calculation of the value of life (used for insurance and accident claims). For 284,000 farmers’ suicides since 1995, this translates to $1.99 trillion. India’s GDP was $1.82 trillion in 2012. Besides the cost of farmers’ life there is also an economic drain on the national economy. Just the royalties collected for Bt cotton amount to `5,000 crore. Can you imagine the economic drain if all seeds were GMOs bought from global companies?
Henry Kissinger had said, “Food is a weapon.” Today control over seeds through genetic engineering and patents has become the key to using food as a weapon. That is why for 30 years we have been saving seeds and defending seed freedom. We have been promoting organic farming that protects our biodiversity, the livelihood of our farmers and the health of our citizens. This should be the agenda for a free and prosperous India. Not the seed slavery through GMOs being promoted by the Intelligence Bureau.
The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

Foreign hand in the IB Report?
by Vidyut
· June 17, 2014
India’s Sovereignty, Security and Freedom at risk-
Is the IB being used by foreign corporations to take over India’s vital seed sector?

The IB report has a special section on GMOs (genetically modified/engineered organisms). It clearly supports the introduction of GM crops into Indian agriculture.

The IB report makes specific mention of the Supreme Court cases which have beenfiled. It curiously also accuses civil society organisations and individuals of influencing 3 Committees that were officially mandated to assess GMOs. The IB report objects to these formal government reports, the Moratorium Orders of Shri Jairam Ramesh, the Parliamentary Standing Committee Report and the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee Report (TEC) because they find that on current evidence, GM crops have little to contribute to Indian agriculture, safe food and food security. These findings did not accord with the view of the PMO, when headed by the erstwhile Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. This report was initiated under the UPA Government.
IB objects to protection of Indian seed and food sovereignty?

In 1998, when Monsanto introduced Bt cotton illegally, without the statutory approvals from the GEAC, we had to file a case in the SC to defend the laws of the land, our Constitution, our Seed Sovereignty and Food Sovereignty. When open field trials were being conducted without appropriate and independent Biosafety assessments, and expertise inthese matters, the current cases in the Supreme Court were initiated in 2003 and 2005 to uphold the law: protect the environment and safety of our seeds and food from irreversible genetic contamination, protect smallholder farming in India, and the health safety of 1 billion citizens. The country faces a major threat from the multinational Seed/chemical industry, seeking control over our seeds, our agriculture and our food. This is the corporate focus. This is their AGENDA. Thousands of organizations and many multiples of thousands of individuals are committed to resisting this unacceptable corporate goal for India.
IB favors the foreign hand in the ‘making of India’s Bt brinjal’:

The IB report quotes a Dr Ronald Herring of Cornell University who promotes GMOs and the monopoly of Monsanto. It is ironic that the IB report relies on the evidence of Dr Herring with his antecedents in Cornell University, a hub of blind GMO promotion. It is the direct foreign hand along with USAID and Monsanto funding, behind the ‘making of India’s Bt brinjal’. Here is a real foreign hand that informs the IB report. Has the IB report been written then with foreign influence, for the benefit and profits of foreign corporations? Thestrategy of the global GMO seed industry with their patents & IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) is to bend regulation and influence governments and regulators to approve GMOs, by-passing scientific, transparent and independent safety testing.
Outrageous insult to our Parliamentarians and Contempt of Court by the IB:

The PSC recommended a high-level enquiry into how Bt brinjal was approved by the Regulators for commercial release. The self-assessed safety-dossier by Mahyco-Monsanto was a cover-up as evidenced in independent assessments of the raw data by several leading international scientists.  It staggers belief that the IB find it possible to hand out an outrageous insult to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, by suggesting  that they have in effect been led ‘by the nose’ by activists and civil society groups and have no competence to address their official mandate on the subject. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the IB report has been influenced by those who have most to gain by undermining our seed and food sovereignty ie. the foreign corporations.

The IB report has also attacked the government decision made under our Biosafety laws to impose a moratorium on Bt Brinjal. It is thus attacking our Biosafety. This will only suit foreign interests.

The IB is guilty of contempt of court since it attacks the Technical Expert Committee set up by the Supreme Court to look into the issues of GMOs and Biosafety. The case is still being heard.

The IB fails to refer to the important other official report, the ‘Sopory Committee Report’. This report of 2012 commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture itself is a stinging commentary on what is wrong with GMO regulation in India. Ourregulatory institutions and the MoA have been indicted in this report for lies, fraud and lacking GMO expertise. And the truth with regard to massive contamination was revealed in this report.

NGOs saving Indian seed and food sovereignty:

The biggest foreign hand by STEALTH and official COVER-UP will be in GMOs/GM crops if introduced into Indian agriculture. All that stands between a corporate takeover of our seeds and agriculture is the committed and exemplary work by the not-for-profit sector that helped create an informed debate on GMOs and has postponed, even stopped government action from introducing them for over 15 years.  In conspiring with deeply conflicted institutions of regulation, governance and agriculture, of which there is incontrovertible proof, to introduce GM crops into India, the IB will in fact aid the hand-over of the ownership of our seeds and foods to Multi-NationalCorporations. This will represent the largest take-over of any nation’s agriculture and future development by foreign-hands and this time it will be no bogey foreign hand. This will be for real.  China is on record as saying that she will not allow her armed forces to eat any GM food. This not-to-be-imagined future will plunge India into the biggest breach of internal security; of a biosecurity threat and food security crisis from which we will never recover. The fallout of this mere 20 year-old laboratory technology is, that it is irreversible. This is what must give us sober ‘food for thought’ uncontaminated by GMOs, something the IB seems to be supremely oblivious of. GM crops have already demonstrated no yield gain, no ability to engineer for traits of drought, saline resistance etc and have some  serious bio-safety issues which no regulator wishes  to examine.
Indian Cotton in Foreign Hands, Indian farmers’ hard earned money expatriated to foreign lands:

India’s Bt cotton is an outstanding example of the above scenario. It was introduced into India’s hybrids, not varieties so our farmers would be forced to buy seeds each year. This ‘VALUE CAPTURE’ for Monsanto which was contrived and approved by our own government mortgaging the public interest has ensured that in a short 10 years, 95% of cotton seeds in the form of Bt cotton are owned by Monsanto. The damage to India’s organic cotton market and status is significant. India is the largest organic cotton producer/exporter in the world. It is Monsanto now that decides where cotton should be planted and when by our farmers, a role that the MoA has absconded or been eliminated from. The Royalties accruing to Monsanto that have been expatriated are approximately Rs 4800 Crores in 12 years,   (excludingother profit mark-ups). What would this figure be if GMOs and propriety seeds flooded our farms without Biosafety assessment and regulation? This is the arithmetic the IB should have done, instead of throwing an arbitrary figure of 2-3% loss of growth. The IB is thus conspiring with global corporate interests to hemorrhage India’s agricultural economy. More than 284000 Indian farmers have been pushed to suicide because of a debt trap, lack of government investment in smallholder farming and dependence on non-renewable, propriety seeds and chemicals sold by the corporations. We call for an investigation on the foreign influence in writing the GMO section in the IB report.

If India’s intelligence agencies become instruments of global corporations working against the public interest and national interest of India, our national security is under threat.

This IB report is deeply anti-national and subversive of constitutional rights of citizens in our country.  It does India nocredit.

 Vandana Shiva, Aruna Rodrigues & Kavitha Kuruganti

ASHA’s Statement on the IB report & India’s GMO-Free Movement

An Intelligence Bureau report dated June 3rd 2014 that is seen by many to have been deliberately leaked to select media houses, is creating a public sentiment in India at this point of time on civil society movements coming in the way of India’s economic development. The said report summarily concludes that the negative impact on GDP growth [from “concerted efforts by select foreign funded NGOs to ‘take down’ Indian development projects” which is the subject of the 21-page report] is assessed to be 2-3% p.a.
This is a note from ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) on this IB report, as the said IB report makes a mention of Kavitha Kuruganti (one of the Convenors of ASHA) as an individual activist and about ASHA and IFSF (India For Safe Food, a campaign for pesticide-free/GMO-free farming and food systems) as two of the NGOs listed under its anti-GMF section (Section 3 – Anti Genetically Modified Organisms activism).

About ASHA:
ASHA is an alliance/coalition of hundreds of organizations and individuals, including numerous farmers groups, from more than 20 states of India and works on promoting sustainable agriculture and sustainable farm livelihoods. It refers to its work as that of protecting our Food, Farmers and Freedom (seed and food sovereignty (please visit for more information).
From the dialogues that emerged during the Kisan Swaraj Yatra undertaken by more than 220 individuals and nearly 400 organisations in 2010 when ASHA was created and subsequent work, ASHA articulates a 4-pillared Kisan Swaraj Neeti and calls on governments to adopt the same. This policy articulation provides a framework for a forward-looking agricultural policy approach for India. The four pillars of Kisan Swaraj are (1) income security for farm households; (2) ecological sustainability of agriculture; (3) people’s control over agricultural resources like land, water and seed; and (4) access to safe, healthy, nutritious and sufficient food for all.
The work of ASHA is centred around (1) setting up ecological farming alternatives, (2) ensuring seed diversity revival and secure seed self reliance, (3) highlighting any negative unsustainable approaches in farming – for eg., the UPA government’s BGREI (Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India) programme based on corporatisation of seed resources, chemicalisation of eastern Indian agriculture, water use intensification etc., (4) seeking minimum living incomes for farm households to enable them to continue a dignified life in agriculture, (5) understanding and advocating a different dispensation to adivasi agriculture and food security, and (6) campaigning against hazardous agri-chemicals including pesticides and fertilizers through the India For Safe Food platform (7) creating an informed debate on risky technologies in agriculture like GM crops, especially centered around the issues of biosafety and seed sovereignty.
ASHA’s stance on GMOs in our environment, and its work on creating an informed public debate on the matter comes out of its understanding that transgenics are unsustainable and incompatible with agro-ecological, organic farming, apart from being potentially detrimental to consumer health and conservation of biodiversity as one of the bedrocks of economic and ecological sustainability. Experiences across the world and in India have shown that GM crops also facilitate the control of our seeds into the monopolistic hands of a few multinational seed corporations, which is not just a threat to livelihoods of our farmers but our nation’s sovereignty itself. It is an established fact that one US company Monsanto now controls more than 95% of the cotton seed market in our country through its proprietary Bt cotton. In fact, even the Planning Commission in the 12th Five Year Plan document points this out as a worrisome scenario.
ASHA is a coalition and associated organizations and individuals raise their own respective resources, foreign or Indian, for the cause of sustainable farm livelihoods and safe food.  Some organizations indeed receive foreign funds for setting up ecological farming alternatives, for agro-diversity conservation, for creating awareness on GMOs, for taking up relevant research etc. These organizations and individuals comply with prevalent laws. Greenpeace India, Navdanya, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, INSAF and Gene Campaign are only a few of the hundreds of organizations and lakhs of Indians who subscribe to healthy GM-free food and farming. This is neither an anti-national or anti-development agenda except perhaps in the eyes of corporations and those who are unaware that GM in agriculture is a technology rejected by most countries around the world.
ASHA’s contribution or the contribution of organizations and individuals associated with ASHA towards building sustainable rural livelihoods and to reduce agrarian distress is a constructive and transparent agenda on record, on its website and in the public domain.

The (non-) accusations of the IB report:

On Page 9 of this secret IB report called “Impact of NGOs on Development”, the accusations against the GM Free India activists are that they received “free-funding” (this is a new coinage by India’s Intelligence officials). It accuses ASHA and its IFSF campaign to be headquartered in one address in Katwaria Sarai in New Delhi, along with 4 other NGOs. Yes, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture is headquartered there from where INSAF operates, and yes we run a campaign against pesticides called India For Safe Food. It is not clear however what is illegal or objectionable to this, to have several outfits share a space within their meager resources.
The IB report also makes a mention of INSAF’s FCRA registration being frozen in 2013 but does not reveal that the Delhi High Court, after hearing INSAF’s petition against this action, has subsequently ordered a de-freezing of the account on procedural grounds, allowing INSAF to function with its resources, foreign or otherwise.
Page 10 continues its accusations against ASHA thus: “the above NGOs were active facilitators of news articles, liaison with other activists and social media activism, which contributed to the three-year-old moratorium on Bt brinjal and the ban/moratorium regimes recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (August 9 2012) and the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court (October 7, 2012).
Indeed, ASHA does bring information and news with regard to GMOs into the public domain, so that an informed debate is created on the subject. And yes, liaisoning with other activists and using social media are part of what we do. This is part of spreading awareness on a technology which ASHA has sound evidence to believe is not in the interest of farmers, consumers, environment, national seed or food sovereignty – it is unclear once again what is illegal or objectionable about this.
It appears that the IB has nothing to note or object to, about foreign MNCs like American seed giant Monsanto spending their vast resources to take up their aggressive PR work, including advertisements that have been found to be baseless and the corporation pulled up for the same, inserting “paid news” in leading national dailies and taking journalists on junket trips including to the USA. These are incidentally corporations that have been convicted of various crimes and offences.
The informed public debate contributing to the Government of India putting a moratorium by ‘being responsive to society and responsible to science’ is something to be welcomed. However, to believe that the Government of India which placed a moratorium on Bt brinjal, and various institutions and panels like the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture (which included UPA members as well as NDA members in its unanimous report) or the SC’s TEC can be influenced only by our ‘facilitation of news articles, liaisoning with other activists and social media activism’ is a serious insult to these credible and democratic bodies. Is the IB employed by the Government of India accusing its Ministers and elected Parliamentarians of being incapable in their work?
Like stated earlier, foreign corporations, foreign funded industry bodies, foreign funded public sector bodies are also ‘facilitating news articles, liaisoning with each other other and active on social media’. When the PSC and the TEC have given their independent analysis and recommendations on the subject, it would be an insult to credible individuals, experts and people’s representatives to claim that they have been swayed by activism alone and not by the substantive scientific and socio-economic evidence on the negative impact of GMOs across the world. Such evidence was provided by leading biotech and agricultural experts, amongst others, who debunked the claims made by biotechnology corporations and fully foreign-funded NGOs and industry associations that promote GM in Indian agriculture.
On Page 11, the IB report accuses INSAF of transferring FCRA NGO funds to non-FCRA NGOs, and that there are individual recipients of such funds too. But as mentioned earlier, it is this accusation with which MHA froze INSAF’s FCRA account. However, the Delhi High Court ordered the de-freezing of INSAF’s account subsequently. And if individuals have received some funding, there is nothing illegal about it.
Para 11 further accuses that “pro-GM researchers, biotech companies and other field enquiries have not been able to verify any such deaths, raising questions on the credibility and integrity of reports generated by these activists”, citing the case of sheep and cattle dying after ingesting Bt cotton leaves in Warangal district.
It is laughable that the IB expects pro-GM researchers and biotech companies to verify such deaths and bring to light the facts. There have indeed been field enquiries including by government departments in AP which have supported the NGO reportage. Further, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture points out to a scientific study which reinforces the NGO findings. NGOs do a national service when they flag such problems for investigation in the interest of sustainable development, and it is not for the IB to decide what is appropriate ‘development’.
In fact, what the IB overlooked is the tremendous contribution that civil society organizations/NGOs working in the field of sustainable agriculture have made in helping our farm communities come out of the input-intensive corporate-controlled paradigm of agriculture which catapulted them into the current agrarian distress, into one that is an ecologically-sustainable, economically-viable and socially-just paradigm. One of the many examples of that is the Non Pesticide Management (NPM) Programme in Andhra Pradesh which has spread to more than 30 lakh acres in the state over the last 9 years and which is now being promoted by other states like Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh etc. This has not only helped farmers get out of the debt and suicide cycles but is also ensuring poison-free food for our citizens.
All of this brings us to a question on how intelligent is this IB report, actually.

How intelligent is the IB report?
This is important to debate since the government is expected to take cognizance of such reports.
The IB report appears to be shoddy with no actual content to project.
This is a report that has unnecessarily stamped itself “Secret” for no good reason, since the organizations and activists named in the report (and ones not named) have not garnered and mobilized so much support by disguising their intent: they have expressly shown their commitment to social and environmental justice, and citizens of the country have responded. In fact, it is citizens’ own causes that have been picked up by many activists to ensure that marginalised voices are heard in a democracy. Similarly, the plans of these organizations are in the open, and the IB report just picks some bits and pieces here and there, and makes it look sinister.
Its plagiarized portions or unconnected, illogical arguments or even absence of any sound accusations are apparent. In the anti-GMO section too, it shows itself for very poor research and analysis. The IB’s lack of knowledge and information of current scientific research across the world that has led to many bans and restrictions, including recently by China in the case of its army rations, is visible in this report.
The IB cannot be expected to understand the scientific issues here. Just as it cannot be expected to arrive in any rigorous fashion at its conclusions related to how much GDP growth got affected by the NGOs it named. As media articles indicate, even the most liberal pro-market analysts are scoffing at the IB’s ability to assess such impacts and are asserting that NGOs can do very little economic damage. The Intelligence Bureau of India has no business coming up with such a report when the best of econometric analysis cannot make such definitive cause and effect correlations related to GDP growth rate. More importantly, the IB cannot be expected to arrive at conclusions about what is good development.
The report also has factual errors. There is no Karuna Raina who is an anti-GM campaigner, for instance. Kavitha Kuruganti did not join this campaign from 2010 onwards, as another example. Activists named have not received increasing support and resources from Greenpeace International in the last four years as stated in the report, as yet another instance.
When the IB prepares such reports, what is also of importance is to check the magnitude of such funds and be able to assess whether a few lakh rupees of foreign funds, countered by crores of foreign corporations’ PR funds, would have indeed created the impact of the kind that the IB makes a bogey of as the impact on India’s development and whether it believes that all legitimate concerns should be muzzled in a democracy. Some analysts have already done so in popular media articles from the time the debate has been created on the subject a few days ago, and the IB analysis has indeed become a laughing stock there.
Just one glance at the report is enough to note the extremely shoddy way in which certain pre-decided narrative was laid out, without any basis or logic. It is shocking that India’s government is expected to act on such poor quality “intelligence”.

Foreign Hand/Funding:
The foreign hand bogey is not new. It is well known that this was used by the Indira Gandhi regime and that the Manmohan Singh government used it too, as an intimidation tactic and as a tactic to dilute public support on particular issues. It is apparent that this IB report was prepared for the UPA government and was for some mysterious reasons shoddily put together now and presented to the current government.
However, this argument around foreign funding ignores the fact that it is not just NGOs, foreign funded or otherwise, which are creating public debates on particular issues. Governments themselves are foreign-funded. Government policies are being directed or influenced heavily by foreign agencies including by large charitable foundations that promote the larger agendas of their governments and corporations in their countries.
What about the fact that political parties have been found to have violated FCRA rules by receiving funds from foreign corporations (High Court of Delhi WP ©131/2013, with judgement delivered on March 28th 2014?)? How is it that the IB does not find any relevance to this fact in its analysis?
In the GMO debate in India, more foreign funds are being spent by foreign MNCs than any NGO. It is reported that just one American biotech major has recruited the services of at least eight PR agencies in Delhi alone for its pro-GM work. If this is about foreign forces influencing domestic decisions in India, why is it that the IB does not think that it is objectionable that biotech industry led by these foreign MNCs is into heavy lobbying, PR and influencing? Incidentally the whole project through which Bt Brinjal was created under a project called Agri-Biotechnology Support Programme (ABSP II) is initiated by foreign agencies like USAID and Cornell University with active funding from Multinational corporations like Monsanto.
It appears that the mandate given to the IB, probably by the UPA government, does not include any investigation into these aspects.
As ASHA, our loyalty is towards Indians, both farmers and consumers. Our commitment is to India’s interests and India’s sustainable development. However, can this be said of various foreign agencies that seem to wield a lot of clout in this country, with their accountability to their shareholders and their allegiance to their (super) profits alone? Their loyalty is not to India and its people – it is to their own ‘development’ agenda supported by the agendas of the developed world they are based in.
We also want to point out that in India’s independence struggle also, the Father of the Nation Gandhi ji, has received foreign funding. In nation-building, foreign funding has played a part and will continue to do so and this cannot be used as a bogey to silence genuine debates on matters of national interest by Indian citizens. The question that needs to be asked and answered is whether such initiatives lead to keeping our country the sovereign, socialist, secular republic that our Constitution envisages.

Muzzling of Debate and Dissent:
What is objectionable is that the IB report is not just about foreign-funded NGOs. It is about quelling of dissent and opposition, including of groups which are not NGOs, or funded or foreign-funded; this is apparent from some of the details included in the Report of some non-funded outfits.
This IB report pre-supposes that we as a nation have decided on a particular development paradigm and GDP growth as the sole agenda, even to the extent of riding roughshod over issues of social, economic and environmental justice, democracy, plurality and sustainability. It is by debate that a nation arrives at its own collective wisdom on such issues and stifling such peaceful and democratic debate is short sighted at best.
It is not clear if the IB is saying that evidence and experience that the activism brings to the fore (including of violations of Indian laws, and denial of constitutional rights) should be ignored or worse, stamped out? Is the IB saying that studies cannot be commissioned to research on particular potential impacts, and that public awareness cannot be created?
It should be remembered that most innovations that the nation benefited from in the field of development, came from dissenting NGOs which sought alternatives in various sectors, going against status quo. This is in the field of post-modern agriculture, natural resource conservation management, renewable energy, sanitation, food security etc., in addition to the social themes like human rights, decentralized, accountable and transparent governance etc.
There are a number of movements created and led by local people to protect their lives and livelihoods. As a nation, we need to respect their views, voices and resistance, and their struggle to uphold their own dignity and way of life.
Social, economic and environmental justice are at the core of the debates that the IB so facetiously chose to do some sensationalism around. It cannot be a crime to raise issues of environmental and social justice, no matter where the funds come from. If India is not for economic, environmental and social justice, then it is indeed a matter of concern. As a nation, we must encourage debate and allow dissent, to preserve our democracy.
The Movement to keep our farms, food and environment free from GMOs will continue, since the technology does have potential adverse impacts, is based on unproven claims of benefits, and because it is unneeded:
For the Intelligence Bureau’s information, we would like to state once again that transgenic technology in our food and farming systems and in our environment does have adverse impacts, which have been scientifically documented. This has been presented to the Indian government and public by groups like ASHA time and again in the national interest. This has also been brought to the fore by various experts and scientists. It is also apparent that real, lasting solutions lie in agro-ecological approaches to farming and GMOs contaminate and irreversibly destroy the freedom to choose for both farmers and consumers.
The GM-Free India movement cannot be bracketed conveniently into “five activists and six FCRA NGOs who are foreign funded”. The current Home Minister to whom the IB report has been presented has indeed expressed his reservations about GMOs in the past in written statements supporting protest movements. There are hundreds of scientists including current and retired experts from the NARS and public sector scientific establishment who have been expressing their reservation on GMOs and advocating a precautionary approach. There are Ministers in the present and earlier government who have voiced their views and even recorded their decisions against GMOs. There are major farmer unions (including ones who are affiliated to the ruling dispensation) who are against GMOs including for reasons related to seed sovereignty and farmers’ rights. There are several retired Supreme Court judges who have expressed their concern about the right of choice which is destroyed for farmers and consumers once GM is adopted. The movement also has seen spiritual and cultural leaders coming out against such GMOs pointing to the socio-cultural as well as ethical dimensions of the debate.  Last but not the least, there are state governments who are saying NO to environmental releases of GMOs.
In fact, the BJP Manifesto itself in 2009 stated the following about GMOs: “No genetically modified seed will be allowed for cultivation without full scientific data on long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers. All food and food products produced with genetically modified seeds will be branded as ‘GM Food.’ The promise has been repeated by BJP in its 2014 election manifesto again.
It is therefore highly specious that the IB presents a picture of foreign-funded NGOs behind the active efforts to keep our country GM Free.
The GMO debate should and will continue in India, with or without foreign funds and Indian funds. Hasty decisions, citing economic growth arguments without clear evidence of safety and sustainable development, will indeed be resisted by people. The activists and NGOs named in the report will not be intimidated in their efforts to create an informed debate on the subject, keeping the best interests of our farmers, consumers and environment in mind. ASHA is committed to presenting sound evidence and experience on not only GMOS but on sustainable alternatives which create a win-win situation for everyone.
We urge the new government not to follow the practices of the previous government to use the Intelligence Bureau as a tool for promoting interests of large corporations, including foreign corporations. It appears that agents of such vested interests are playing an influential role in the offices of our policy-makers as well as the Intelligence agencies. We hope that the government will shield itself from such influences.
Meanwhile, ASHA urges the Government of India to pro-actively implement pro-people, pro-Nature policies and programmes, and fulfill the many positive commitments made to the people of this country in the BJP manifesto. We attach herewith our earlier letter to Shri Narendra Modi on the subject (

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