Thankfully that isn't reason enough to ban something, else people would have to forgo many fundamental human rights that frequently tend to get in the way of perceived “development”.
Whichever side of the fence you may be on, it is hard to dispute the fact that NGOs, as a collective, have proven to be a force to reckon with. They have been more than successful in holding the mirror to the government, and provided some, if not a lot, of conscience to its actions on a number of occasions.
Greenpeace alone, since its inception, has caused much discomfort to the governments around the world.
In the recent report by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Greenpeace stood accused of being a “threat to national economic security”. Their campaigns against coal mining, nuclear plants, deforestation and other such activities has earned them the ire of Indian government officials, who saw it fit to demonise the organisation as being 'anti-development'.
Impacts economic growth?
For instance, the report states the negative impact of the NGOs’ role on GDP growth to be “2-3% per annum”. Greenpeace has slammed this claim, calling it ridiculous. “3% of India’s GDP is over 3.3 lakh crores – more than the coal and 2G scams put together! Leaving aside the IB’s questionable math and understanding of economics, the burden of proof is on them to substantiate their wild claims with evidence,” the organisation said in a statement. “However, we must also realise that environmental degradation is believed to be reducing India’s GDP by 5.7% pa according to the World Bank.”
It is no secret that that organisations such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International make the corporates very uncomfortable. But irrespective of the government in power, or their equation with the corporates, they have hardly ever shared an amiable relationships with the Ngos.
Among other things that Greenpeace was accused of was being “people centric”. The fact that thisis even an issue, speaks more about IB than the Ngos. “Yes, Greenpeace does run “people-centric” campaigns,” says their statement. “Why is this seen as negative? People have a right to, and to demand for, clean air, water, forests, livelihoods and a liveable climate.”
One of major highlights of the report was the anti-nuclear activities of these organisations. Campaigns by Greenpeace, from protests against the Kudankulum Nuclear Power Plant to demand a stronger Nuclear Liabilities Bill have created hurdles in the government's initiatives to make India a nuclear empowered state. Greenpeace, very proudly, admits to being guilty as charged. “GP believes that nuclear energy is an inherently unsafe and risky technology that is not required. We work to expose nuclear accidents/safety loopholes because they are a public safety issue. We believe the industry must be held accountable for accidents arising out of faulty equipment,” they state.
“The nuclear civil liability law that GP has worked to bring to the country is intended to ensure recompense for citizens by the equipment company in case of a disaster. This ensures the Indian tax payer is saved crores of rupees in case of an accident and the foreign nuclear supplier is not let off scot free — how is this anti national?” they question.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), another of the government-corporate initiatives, has faced a lot of flack from activists, and NGOs. So it is no surprise that the IB would make a case study out of it to build their 'anti-development' argument against NGOs. “GMOs pose a potential risk to public health, environment and to farmers. It’s so far been an unpredictable technology and once the GMOs are released into the environment, it can’t be controlled or called back,” says Greenpeace in defense.
They go a step further to throw the IB's 'government-funded' comment back at them. “While the IB accuses us of representing foreign interests, GMO technology is being pushed in India by US multinationals like Monsanto,” they point out.
Greenpeace has actively campaigned against indiscriminate use of coal and resulting deforestation. Most controversial perhaps is their head-on conflict with Essar Group over mining in Mahan forests in Madhya Pradesh. Along with the members of the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti, they have been protesting against the Mahan Coal Ltd's (a joint venture of Essar Power and Hindalco) proposed coal mine in the Mahan forests.
Even as attempts to intimidate villagers through arrests continue, organisations have continued to exert pressure through campaigns such as Van Satyagraha. “Burning of fossil fuels, primarily coal, are the main cause of climate change. If we are to slow the rate of climate change. The developed world is shifting away from coal and towards renewable energy; India is uniquely posed to avoid repeating the mistakes of others,” they state.
As an alternate, Greenpeace recommends and promotes the use of solar energy.
“Our work on coal is focussed around ensuring that the laws of the land are not violated. These include the Forest Conservation Act, Wildlife Protection Act, the Forest Rights Act, etc. ,” they explain. “Our work in Mahan, Singrauli has highlighted the ongoing violation of some of these laws. The people of Mahan are asking that their rights, guaranteed under the Forest Rights Act, are recognised, something that the state government has deliberately failed to do,” they state.
Cohorts with AAP?
Greenpeace was also accused of keeping the company of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a fact that was not looked upon favourably by the IB. “Pankaj Singh, a consultant to Greenpeace decided to use what he thought would be a great personal opportunity to join AAP,” they explain in their statement. “Greenpeace did not contribute money to his campaign and we are clear that our supporter’s money needs to be spent on campaigns and not on funding one political party or the other. We continues to believe that we need to engage with all political parties to bring about a better planet,” they added in conclusion.
While the IB and Greenpeace have had their say on the report, public discourses and discussions refuse to placate. And even as people debate whether organisations such as Greenpeace should be allowed to continue their work, it is imperative that we take a moment to comprehend the facts. Do we really want to step into a territory, where stepping over the right of humanitarian organisations to exist is justified in the name of development?