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Foreign Funds To NGOs: PROTESTS THWART NATIONAL INTERSTS?, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 24 June, 2014 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 24 June 2014      

Foreign Funds To NGOs


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


There has been uproar over foreign funding of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisation) and allegations that monies are channeled to finance protest campaigns against issues like setting up of nuclear plants, coal mining, mega industrial projects, genetically modified crops etc.


According to an Intelligence Bureau (IB) report (submitted to Prime Minister Modi early this month), NGOs including Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Action Aid thwarted the country’s development by using foreign money to mobilize people and organize mass campaigns. These NGOs, reportedly working through a network of local organizations such as PUCL and Narmada Bachao Andolan, have negatively impacted the GDP growth rate of 2 to 3 per cent, added the report.


In fact, that the NGOs were involved in “anti national activities” surfaced in 2012 amidst raging protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu. At that time, the UPA Government asserted that the NGOs in Tamil Nadu and Delhi received foreign contributions of nearly Rs 10,000 crores during 2008-11.


However, the latest report further found that 8 of the 11 NGOs involved in the Kudankulam protests were primarily funded by Europe based donors who allegedly pumped in Rs 80 crores between 2005-06 and 2010-11. 


This is not all. The report found that Greenpeace had formed a coal network to fight coal-based power stations in the country and NTPC (National Thermal Power Company) was the biggest offender with 47 projects. It initiated protests in many places and lately over doubling the capacity of the 15,000 MW Singrauli project in Madhya Pradesh. 


Notably, post the submission of the IB details, Greenpeace admitted that it organized campaigns against GM crops, the Jaitapur nuclear power station in Maharashtra and a coal mining project in Madhya Pradesh’s Madan district. Its reason? These were done because the projects were against the interests of the people and anti the concept of sustainable economic development.


Moreover, it pointed out that most of its funding came from individual supporters within the country. Whereby, it raised Rs 20 crores from over three lakh individuals in India during 2013-14, while foreign grants made up only 37 per cent of the donations --- about Rs 7 crores.


Apart from the NGOs in Tamil Nadu and Delhi, the Intelligence report found that voluntary organizations in other States like Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala and Maharashtra also received foreign contributions, some heavy amounts, during the current financial year.


Meanwhile, environmental and social activists have disputed the IB report as also the recent Government decision to raise the height of the Narmada dam from the current 121 metres to the full reservoir level of 138 metres. The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) said the decision appeared to have been taken in haste without checking the status of rehabilitation of the displaced people.  


Besides, reportedly even the Union Environment Ministry has found gross violation of conditions under which the dam clearance had been granted. The NAPM rightly stated in a letter to Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati that “thousands of families are yet to be given land in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra as also thousands of landless people, fish workers and potters who too are yet to be given alternative livelihoods” while also opposing the dam clearance on technical grounds.


Questions have been raised about whether these movements spearheaded by voluntary organizations retard the pace of development. Arguably, if highlighting the voice of the people, voice of the displaced and the exploited at the grassroots level is considered anti-development there is nothing that can be said. Notwithstanding, claims by our political leaders who aver they practice inclusive democracy by always voicing the need for transparency.  


Pertinently, regarding GM activism, a joint statement issued by Dr. Vandana Shiva and three others, ten days ago stated that the Intelligence report had quoted a scientist from Cornell University, which happens to be a “hub of GM promotion”, but gave no credence to an Agriculture Ministry report which had indicted India’s regulatory institutions and the Ministry itself for providing misleading information and lacking expertise on GM crops. 


As things stand today, the Supreme Court has appointed a five-member Technical Advisory Committee to restructure the regulatory system as it was “unsatisfactory and inadequate.”


Undeniably, voluntary organizations have done exemplary work at the grass-root level. Specially, vis-à-vis rehabilitation of displaced people, which was unknown in the country and took centre-stage only in the last decade thanks to sustained efforts by the NGOs.


As piecemeal rehabilitation as was the norm earlier was totally inadequate whereby displaced persons found themselves lost in the new place and could not survive, leave alone make a living. Worse, corporate houses took away land, mostly forcibly, and did not ensure whether the displaced family would be able to eke out a living from the money given.   


There is no gainsaying that NGOs have worked tirelessly for the poor and the oppressed and, in most cases, have undertaken the work at a nominal remuneration much lower than those offered by the Government.


As is well known, one of the main reasons for the Naxalite movement is land grabbing by industrial houses with the help of political leaders which Maoists vehemently oppose even if it takes violence. But voluntary organizations mostly with the help of intellectuals have resisted business houses and local leaders from exploiting the poor.   


As it stands, mining projects have caused considerable pollution thereby jeopardizing the health of the people, mostly belonging to poorer sections living in surrounding areas. Also, a lot of illegal mining has taken place where again the polluters did not heed environmental regulations which were in force.


But NGOs assert they have been fighting against this with help from the judiciary, but the Government has always supported business groups as their activities are interpreted as development work.


It stands to reason, that development has to be such that it encompasses the greater interests of the community and benefits people. As such, before a clearance is granted the people who are likely to be displaced need to be heard and their fears examined along-with impetus on rehabilitation.

The recent Land Acquisition Act, though criticized by a section of activists, has clearly stated that before acquisition, proper rehabilitation has to be ensured, employment for at least of one member of the family in any sanctioned project so that the livelihood of the affected persons is not affected.


All in all, it needs to be reiterated that the poor and the backward sections, namely tribals, dalits and other backward communities cannot be neglected for long as this would have serious social and economic consequences. There has to be developmental growth, read more business by the people, for the people and of the people.


The vision for the future should be based on Mahatma Gandhiji’s charkha which symbolized that people would be earners and owners of their own enterprise. This is the new meaning of inclusive democratic capitalism! ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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