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Legal costs, salaries and a drone: Why the govt froze Greenpeace India's bank accounts

After attempting to block one of its activists from going abroad, the BJP-led NDA government went up against NGO Greenpeace India again by freezing its bank accounts and suspending its accounts on the grounds that it was encouraging anti-development campaigns. Reports now indicate that the Ministry of Home Affairs decided to freeze the accounts on the basis of an inspection report that claims the NGO was using funds to bail arrested activists, pay high salaries and keep foreign consultants to aid in carrying out protests.

A Times of India report notes that the Ministry of Home Affairs had noted in an inspection report that the Indian arm of the NGO had been incurring rising legal expenditure since 2008, which included bail bonds for arrested activists, and said the funds were disbursed without the consent of the donor as required under a section of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

 Legal costs, salaries and a drone: Why the govt froze Greenpeace Indias bank accounts

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The ministry, which monitors donations from abroad to domestic NGOs, had noted activists had been arrested for violations of laws like the Indian Penal Code and other criminal laws, and said that Greenpeace had been funding legal costs in breach of law.

It also rejected the NGO's clarification that it was working democratically saying that its activists were doing nothing meant for the environment "while hurting our national interest", the report noted.

The Ministry also accused Greenpeace India of paying high salaries to top officials and consultants without consent of the parent organisation.

A DNA report quoted the home ministry's dossier on the NGO finding Greenpeace India guilty of using funds to influence Indian government policies and inviting foreign activists to 'train and equip' Indian activists in protests.

The Ministry took note of the fact that one of its consultants, Pankaj Singh, had contested as an AAP candidate from Mahaan in Madhya Pradesh  during the Lok Sabha polls and after losing, was working for the NGO while also working for the party in Delhi. It also pointed out that the NGO had invited and paid for the travel of a UK-based channel to make a documentary on tribal displacement by the Mahaan coal project and a drone had been used for filming without permission from the defence ministry.

The Home Ministry on Thursday had suspended the registration of Greenpeace India under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and froze all seven bank accounts of the NGO, alleging that the organisation had violated the law.

The seven bank accounts of Greenpeace in IDBI Bank, ICICI Bank and Yes Bank have been frozen with immediate effect and the NGO has been told it can appeal against the order in 30 days.

In its order, the ministry of home affairs had listed the use of funds for legal expenditure, transferring funds to a subsidiary without government permission, spending over 50 percent of the funds received from abroad on administrative costs and shifting office from Chennai to Bengaluru without informing the government, among other things.

Greenpeace has promised to mount a legal challenge against the government's order and has claimed the suspension order was merely a 'smear' by the government.

"This feels like a revealing moment, one that says much more about the MHA than it does about Greenpeace. We believe in the Indian legal system. A campaign is being waged against dissent, but we will not be cowed," Greenpeace India Executive Director, Samit Aich said in a statement after receiving the suspension notice.

(With agency inputs)

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Updated Date: Apr 11, 2015 15:16:33 IST

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