India is a friendly place, but they can only take so much before their government decides to kick you out of the country.
Greenpeace is learning this the hard way. In a twist of irony, the very country activists are trying to “save” from global warming has turned on them for allegedly comprising its economic security. The Indian government has cracked down of Greenpeace and other U.S. environmental groups for protesting its use of coal-fired electricity, India’s biggest source of energy.
Indian officials barred a Greenpeace staff member from travelling to London to testify against a British company for human rights violations, reports the Los Angeles Times. This comes after the government blocked Greenpeace’s access to foreign funding last year. Indian media outlets also reported this month that the government imposed financial restrictions on four other U.S.-based environmental groups.
“The groups who’ve been working on coal and climate change are the groups that are being singled out,” said Priya Pillai, the Greenpeace staff member who was not allowed to travel to London. “But this is a democratic country and I have a right to speak my mind.”
“Is it now an offense in India to speak out for the most marginalized people in the country?” Pillai asked.
A member of one eco-group told the Times he had “his personal bank account frozen and been ordered to explain every deposit sent from the group’s U.S. office since 2010.”
Last year, India’s Intelligence Bureau issued a report declaring Greenpeace “a potential threat to national economic security… growing exponentially in terms of reach, impact, volunteers and media influence.” The report added that Greenpeace was finding “ways to create obstacles in India’s energy plans” and to “pressure India to use only renewable energy.”
Indian intelligence officers said Greenpeace’s activities have cost the country between 2 and 3 percent of its gross domestic product every year.
Greenpeace was outraged by the report and argued its push to end coal use would stave off global warming. But with some 300 million Indians lacking access to electricity, abandoning coal — their most affordable and reliable energy option — is out of the question. India’s government says not using coal and other fossil fuels would relegate its population to poverty.
India’s crackdown on eco-activists comes after Greenpeace was berated by Peruvians for desecrating sacred historical sites. The Peruvian government said it would pursue criminal charges against the group for irreparably damaging the Nazca lines — a world heritage site.
The crackdown on U.S. environmental groups also comes as the Obama administration is reaching out to India to enhance economic relations and find ways to work together to fight global warming.
“We want to expand our commercial ties and change the way our businesses talk with one another so we can take this relationship … to the new heights that we envision,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, not mentioning the strife with environmentalists.
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