Swami Agnivesh to Left wingers: Who the IB report on NGOs names
The IB Report that focused on foreign-funded NGOs that were focused on public protests against big projects, names many names from varied fields
The 23-page Intelligence Bureau (IB) report titled ‘Concerted efforts by select foreign-funded NGOs to take down Indian development projects’ names many eminent Indians who have either wittingly or unwittingly supported these NGOs, with or without financial consideration. While some of these prominent personalities were engaged in a variety of projects in India, others were invited abroad to attend conferences where they were briefed on how and why some kinds of mining and power projects – coal-fired and nuclear – and the construction of dams must be opposed.
Take Swami Agnivesh, for instance. The saffron socialist, IB report says, was invited to Geneva in Switzerland as one of the lead speakers in a “side event” on how “extractive industries” interfere with the enjoyment of human rights (14 September, 2012). He was invited by a Netherlands government-funded donor called CORDID. A `Geneva coalition’ has begun working on extractive industries which has opposed oil drilling by Jubilant Energy in three districts of Manipur, dam-building in Arunachal Pradesh and mining projects in Meghalaya.
Elsewhere, while detailing foreign-funded anti-nuclear power activism, the IB report says that these networks are guided by eminent (often Left-wing) Indians, including Praful Bidwai, Achin Vanaik, Admiral (Retd) Ramdas, Lalitha Ramdas, Medha Patkar, Neeraj Jain, Banwarilal Sharma, Karuna Raina, Fr Thomas Kocherry, Arti Choksey and MG Devasahayam. The IB report has devoted quite a few paragraphs to SP Uday Kumar’s German “contact” and Ohio State University funding to the Kudankulam anti-nuclear protests.
The report says that there are territorial networks, which are closely linked and supported by superior networks of the numerous pan-Indian organizations, including Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, National Alliance of Anti Nuclear Movement (NAAM), People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Greenpeace, Indian Social Action Forum, and the People’s Education and Action Centre (PEACE).
After Greenpeace expanded its activities to oppose coal-fired power plants (CFPP) in 2010-11, it devised a new strategy of engaging reputed institutions and journalists for publishing reports or making documentaries.
The report says that to encourage the Indian-ness of its anti-coal approach, Greenpeace financed the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to study heath, pollution and other aspects at the Mahan coal block and plans to use the Mahan case as ammunition to ban all coal extraction. In April 2013, Greenpeace supported and screened a documentary ‘Coal Curse’ directed by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta on the harmful consequences of coal-mining in the Singrauli region, Madhya Pradesh. It also funded an IIT, Delhi, study in April 2013 which said that water diversion to CFPP caused a 40 percent reduction in the irrigation potential of Wardha region in Maharashtra. It demanded a ban on water allocation to the planned and existing CFPP.
On its part, Greenpeace and Urban Emissions and Conservation Action Trust published a questionable technical report which claimed 100,000 deaths in 2011 and 2012 due to heart problems arising from 111 existing coal-fired plants in India.
Starting 2012, Greenpeace activists have been financed to attend international coal conferences, such as the Istanbul Coal Strategy Conference (July 2012). The conference was held to discuss international funding to encourage “people-centric” protests in order to “stop new coal-build plants and to retire existing coal plants”. The guests were accorded lavish five-star treatment for attending the conference. A map of India’s coal-fired power projects with basic details was circulated by US-based Climate Works Foundation and World Resources Institute.
“While its (Greenpeace) efforts to raise obstacles to India’s coal-based energy plans are gathering pace, it has also started spawning mass-based movements against developmental projects and is assessed to be posing a threat to national economic security. In India, Greenpeace is growing exponentially in terms of reach, impact, volunteers, movements it supports and media influence”, the IB report says, citing specific instances on public protests in Singrauli, the Mahan coal block, and against Sasan ultra mega power project.
“These activists have mapped out Indian coal mining companies, specifically mentioning Coal India Limited (CIL), Hindalco, Aditya Birla Group and Essar, which have been targeted because they stand in their way. Greenpeace aims to fundamentally change the dynamics of India’s energy mix by disrupting and weakening the relationship between the key players, including the CIL”, the report said.
The report also has a paragraph on Greenpeace’s Indian headquarters in Bangalore where it regularly receives foreign experts. “Recently a group of cyber security experts upgraded its communication systems and installed sophisticated and encrypted software in its servers and computers”. The IB basically is raising questions as to why an NGO needs to constantly upgrade its communication system and have it encrypted with sophisticated software.
If Greenpeace is busy in the mainland, Dutch-funded NGOs are focusing on the north-east. The IB report gives examples of how they lure Indian activists and NGOs to serve their purposes. Interestingly, the Dutch government-funded CORDAID, has slowly shifted its focus from human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir to the north-east.
To assess the potential for civil rights activism, senior policy officer CORDAID, Eelco De Groot, earlier associated with the Dutch ministry of economic affairs, had planned a visit to Manipur from March 5-12, 2013, but permission was denied. He had planned the visit through an organisation called the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the report says.
To circumvent the visa denial, De Groot invited and funded the trip of 8 North Eastern participants to Bangkok from 28 April to 3 May 2013, for training in extractive activism. The event was formally sponsored by a Manipur-based NGO, rural women’s upliftment society. The meeting resolved how future activism is to be organised. De Groot emphasised that instead of fighting the government it was best to make it difficult for companies to meet all the required international standards in oil extraction.
This was followed up by an elaborate training session in Shillong from 28 October to 1 November 2013 to equip activists with skills to use GPS tracking to update a GIS platform on extractives in the north-east.
CORDAID and three United Kingdom-based organizations, Amnesty International, Action Aid and Survival International, have been campaigning extensively against Vedanta Aluminium Limited. Around 15 Indian NGOs too are active against Vedanta. There was also an element of inter-corporate and international corporate rivalry. The report quoted the CMD of JSW Steel, Sajjan Jindal, as saying that some corporates routed around Rs 50 crore per annum in Odisha against Vedanta through American and Canadian organisations and Indian NGOs to stall the project.
The Home Ministry has ordered a probe into leakage of Intelligence Bureau report that claimed certain NGOs and their international donors are planning to target many fresh economic development projects including those in Gujarat.
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.
Government today said there are intelligence inputs of alleged involvement of NGOs which have received foreign funds in the past in sponsoring agitations.