Greenpeace India has one month left to fight for its survival following a wider government crackdown on civil society. The environmental NGO has been left with funds for staff salaries and office costs that will last for just about 30 days, its executive director has said.
Calling it ‘strangulation by stealth’ Greenpeace India challenged the Ministry of Home Affairs to stop using arbitrary penalties and confirm that he is trying to silence Greenpeace India because of its successful campaigns.
It’s the first time in nearly half a century of campaigning that the environmental group faces having one of its national organizations forcibly shut down.
Home minister Rajnath Singh’s decision to block Greenpeace India’s domestic bank accounts could lead to not only the loss of 340 employees of the organization but a sudden death for its campaigns on sustainable development, environmental justice and clean, affordable energy.
The Executive Director of Greenpeace India, Samit Aich today addressed his staff to prepare them for the imminent shutdown of the organisation after 14 years in the country. “I just made one of the hardest speeches of my life, but my staff deserve to know the truth. We have one month left to save Greenpeace India from complete shutdown, and to fight the Home Ministry’s indefensible decision to block our domestic accounts,” said Aich.
Following allegations over foreign funding, Greenpeace India has been the subject of a string of penalties imposed by the Home Ministry, all of which have been overturned by the Delhi High Court. The latest is blocking access to domestic bank accounts funded by donations from over 77,000 Indian citizens.
While Greenpeace India is currently preparing its formal response to this decision as well as a fresh legal challenge, Aich is concerned that the legal process could extend well beyond June 1st - when cash reserves for salaries and office costs will run dry.
Aich continued: “The question here is why are 340 people facing the loss of their jobs? Is it because we talked about pesticide-free tea, air pollution, and a cleaner, fairer future for all Indians?”
Priya Pillai, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace India whose overseas travel ban was overturned by the Delhi High Court in the month of March was also at the meeting. She said:
“I fear for my own future, but what worries me much more is the chilling message that will go out to the rest of Indian civil society and the voiceless people they represent. The home minister has gone too far by blocking our domestic bank accounts, which are funded by individual Indian citizens. If Greenpeace India is first, who is next?”
Greenpeace India asked the Home Ministry to recognize the impact of its decision. “The home minister is trying to strangle us by stealth, because he knows an outright ban is unconstitutional. We ask him to confirm that he is trying to close Greenpeace India and suppress our voice. His arbitrary attack could set a very dangerous precedent: every Indian civil society group is now on the chopping block,” said Aich.