The real foreign hand

A message from the Executive Director

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Feature story - March 1, 2012
We express shock and indignation at the recent statement the PM of India has made suggesting that anti-nuclear and anti-GM protests have been stoked by NGOs representing a ‘foreign hand’. According to the PM, these NGOs that have no concern for India’s developmental needs and are opposed to the plans of the country. Some of the discussions that followed have either mentioned or alluded to Greenpeace.

I take this opportunity to place on record the facts and to renew our pledge, as committed citizens, to campaign for the future of the people of India and of the planet we live in.

The government's allegations raise the question of our funding. Greenpeace does not accept funds from any government or business corporation. Anywhere in the world, we are an independent campaigning movement sustained by the funds given by common people. Greenpeace in India is sustained by the funds given by 200,000 Indian citizens and has close to one million activists, both on ground and online. We are therefore not predisposed to carry the hidden agendas of multinational corporations and governments.

Greenpeace believes that sustainable and inclusive development lies in conserving soil, water, biodiversity and climate. We oppose agrochemicals and GM seeds that threaten natural resources, livelihoods of farmers and food security. Likewise, we oppose nuclear energy as unsafe and advocate renewable energy as the way forward. This is the Greenpeace stand anywhere in the world and it would be preposterous to insinuate that we contest nuclear energy or biotechnology in India to push a specific agenda in this country.

It is no coincidence that the PM's statement comes just before the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill and the Rules under the Nuclear Suppliers Liability Act are to be introduced in Parliament. Both are seen as critical by the real 'foreign hand' – the biotechnology and nuclear technology corporations. These businesses have a vested interest in growing the Indian market. They have lobbying power with their government, and no scruples about compromising the food safety, life and livelihood, and health of Indian people. With no respect for the sovereignty of India and the wellbeing of her people, our government seems to have sold out to the pressures of the real 'foreign hand.'

The last few years have seen mass mobilization by farmers and consumers who do not want their seed sovereignty and food safety jeopardized, and all to benefit American corporations such as Monsanto. They have opposed the introduction of genetically modified Bt Brinjal. Public sentiment and questions raised by the scientific community led to the moratorium on GM foods by Jairam Ramesh.

Similarly, following the Fukushima disaster, serious concerns have been raised in India and globally about the safety of nuclear energy. Communities of farmers and fishermen are rising up to protest displacement for the expensive and potentially dangerous proposition that is nuclear energy. There is growing skepticism in middle class urban India about nuclear power as a safe and sustainable solution to our energy needs.

Responding to pressure in bilateral talks, the Manmohan Singh government has reassured France, the US and Russia, that neither protests nor the Civilian Nuclear Liability Bill will be allowed to delay hinder nuclear investments by Areva, Westinghouse and others. If nuclear energy is truly safe, why are the suppliers worried about being liable in case of an accident?

Through his recent statements, the PM is trying to discredit and undermine people and their civil society groups for asking legitimate questions of a government that they have elected. He is insulting the intelligence of citizens by suggesting that they are gullible enough to be provoked against their own interests by a conspiracy from across the borders. We take the PM's statement as a subversion of democratic processes for questionable political ends.

In response we would like the PMO and government to explain to the people of India why the real 'foreign hand' is not recognized and thwarted and why legitimate democratic resistance gets this dubious label.