A move is afoot to withdraw tax exemption for donations to Greenpeace even as nearly 180 organisations and activists rallied behind the NGO accusing the government of a “shameful” crackdown against it.
Sources said central security agencies including those associated with financial intelligence have recommended such a course against the NGO on grounds of alleged financial irregularities in contributions received by it from abroad, a charge denied by the organisation.
Donations to Greenpeace enjoy 50 per cent exemption under the provisions of 80-G of the Income Tax Act.
According to the sources, the security agencies have recommended that this exemption should be withdrawn after the Home Ministry withdrew Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act licence to the organisation.
“It is orchestrated attack on free speech, constitutional rights and India’s democratic fabric. The new line of attack questioning the charity status of Greenpeace has no more justification than blocking foreign funding or offloading Priya Pillai.
“Greenpeace India has nothing to hide and will continue to campaign for a sustainable and just future for Indians. Such attempts of clampdown only make us stronger,” said Samit Aich, executive director of Greenpeace India.
Meanwhile, 180 activists and organisations have protested and a letter in this regard has been submitted to Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
The letter termed the crackdown as “shameful” in a country that has a history standing up for social justice, ecological sustainability and the rights of the poor.
The letter states, “It is shocking that despite clear judicial pronouncements, the government has for a third time acted against Greenpeace India.
We cannot but conclude that this is an attempt to divert attention from the serious issues that Greenpeace India and many peoples’ movements and NGOs are raising…”
The government had on April 9 blocked foreign fundings to Greenpeace India by suspending its licence for six months and served a notice to the NGO asking why its registration should not be cancelled.
The decision was taken by the Home Ministry after it was found that the NGO has “prejudicially affected the public interests and economic interests of the country in violation” of FCRA.
The letter also said that large-scale mining, such as in the areas that peoples’ movements are active, are a threat to forests and other natural ecosystems and to communities that depend on them including tribal peoples.
“These and other issues are highlighted by organisations such as Greenpeace India, which also generate significant information on the environment, crucial for taking the right decisions regarding sustainable well-being,” it said.
In a press conference held in Pune by civil society members, Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh and current Greenpeace India Board Chairperson said that the Home Ministry’s move to freeze Greenpeace India’s bank accounts and block both international and domestic funds is a “blatant violation” of the constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association.
“It also seems to be an attempt to warn civil society that dissent regarding developmental policies will not be tolerated. These are dangerous signs for the future of democracy in India,” he said.
The activists including Medha Patkar and others urged the government to immediately stop its “illegitimate and repressive” moves and respect the freedom of speech,” the Greenpeace India statement said.