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MoEF gives forest clearance for expansion of country’s largest open cast mine in Singrauli

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The block has 483 million tonnes of mineable reserves and with a 15 million tonnes/annum capacity, the life of the project will be about 22 years.

An expert panel of the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEF&CC) has recommended forest clearance for expansion of India’s largest open cast mine located at Nigahi in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh, with certain conditions. The expansion of the mine, under the control of Northern Coalfields Limited, is a part of the Singrauli coalfied and is located on a hilly pleateau with an elevation of about 400-450mts above mean sea level.The block has 483 million tonnes of mineable reserves and with a 15 million tonnes/annum capacity, the life of the project will be about 22 years.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The coal from the Nigahi extension block will feed the Vindhyachal Thermal Power Station which is the country’s largest power station with an installed capacity of 4,760MW.The project had come up for appraisal before the forest advisory committee (FAC) of the MoEFCC as it requires clearing of forest areas. Singrauli district, where the project is located, is known as the coal and energy capital of the country is home to dense, rich Sal forests. The Nigahi extension block will spread across 596.11 hectares and out of this the project needs to clear 424.5 hectares of forest comprising of 13,201 trees.During the appraisal of the project, the FAC noted the report of MoEFCC’s regional office at Bhopal that detailed the quality of forests. According to the report, a sizeable part of the extension block is covered by dense forests. Using satellite imagery the FAC confirmed that three major patches of very dense forests are present on the western end of the mine. Of this, two grids are classified as inviolate or out of bound for mining.Thus, even as they recommended forest clearance for the project the FAC has asked Northern Coalfields to not utilise the dense forests for mining owing to their richness. It also asked the company to provide details of the dense forest patches such as its area.The Nigahi coal block is located in the same region as the Mahan forests, where local villagers and Greenpeace India ran a campaign against a proposed coal mine of Essar that was eventually cancelled by the Centre. In fact, the MoEF&CC classified the forests around Mahan coal block as inviolate or out of bound for mining.

Not just Delhi, but pollution exceeds prescribed standards in 15 out of 17 Indian cities

NAQI was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to monitor quality of air in major urban centres.

Traffic congestion in Delhi

Air pollution levels far exceed the prescribed standards in 15 out of 17 Indian cities where National Air Quality Index (NAQI) stations are situated, Greenpeace India said on Tuesday. The NGO released a ranking report of the 17 cities covered by NAQI, which claimed to have revealed data to challenge the complacence of the central and state governments regarding cities other than Delhi.It said the report is the first analysis of air pollution levels in Indian cities carried out using the NAQI system. Greenpeace India said that the shockingly high pollution figures recorded between April and November indicate the continuing severity of the “air pollution disaster”. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The assessment report said the official data showed that pollution levels in many Indian cities, including Delhi, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Patna, Agra and Kanpur exceed famously toxic levels in Beijing and other Chinese cities, over the period covered by the NAQI data.NAQI was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to monitor quality of air in major urban centres. “As the political capital and the most polluted of all cities, the bad air in Delhi gets the most attention. But, scratch below the murky surface and you will find concentrations of PM2.5 in several other cities – Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Muzzafarpur and Faridabad, amongst others that would justify the triggering of a ‘Red Alert’.”Even the government’s own, largely inadequate NAQI data reveals that 23 of the 32 stations across India are showing more than 70 per cent exceedance of the national standards,” said Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India.The report said that Delhi’s levels over the eight months of data were 12 times as high as the WHO annual guideline and three times as high as the national standard. Another six cities Lucknow, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Kanpur and Varanasi — had average levels at least 10 times as high as the WHO annual guideline, it said.Comparing the situation in China and India, Delhi’s PM2.5 levels in July-November were almost twice as high as the levels in Beijing over the same period (132 vs 69 g/m3), and were even higher than the levels in the most polluted provincial capital – Jinan in Shandong, the report said.It said that PM10 levels in Delhi in the same period were more than three times as high as in Beijing. The report also referred to a modelling study carried out by two Indian researchers at IIT-Delhi which found that 60-90% of PM10 in Delhi is due to emissions outside the megacity.Noting that much of the debate on air pollution focuses on Delhi, the green NGO said “Delhi smog” is actually a “misleading” expression and satellite images of the winter-time pollution episodes show smog extending all the way from Punjab to Bihar, making “North India smog” a more appropriate label.Greenpeace India said that India’s NAQI system remains poor with most prominent cities lacking real time monitoring stations far behind the standards followed in the top 20 biggest cities of European Union, the US and China.On average, there are four air quality stations in cities in EU countries, five in US cities, and eight in Chinese cities displaying real time pollution levels, whereas 10 of India’s biggest cities do not even have a single such monitoring station, it saidDahiya went on to add that pollution levels in a few Indian cities have embarrassing distinction of having exceeded the toxic levels of Beijing and other Chinese cities, demonstrating levels at least ten times higher than the WHO standards, making air pollution truly a national emergency. As part of the first such initiative on analysing air pollution data, Dahiya said that the NAQI in its present form, fails to acknowledge the scale of the problem.”Data is only available in seventeen cities, which is a shockingly low number considering the size of our country. There is an immediate need to diversify and upgrade the manual stations to ambient air quality monitoring stations feeding data to the online NAQI portal. The existing system needs to include short and long-term solutions and advisories,” he said.The report said that the official data confirmed that exposure to toxic particulate pollution (PM2.5 and PM10) is alarmingly high in most Indian cities and National Ambient Air Quality Standards are being continuously violated.It said that the three key contributors to particulate pollution levels are emissions of dust and soot, SO2 and NOx, which form particulate pollution in the atmosphere.Analysis of the chemical composition of PM2.5 pollution indicated that during Delhi’s most polluted season, 25 per cent of the PM2.5 is secondary, meaning that controlling regional SO2 and NOx emissions can be an important approach to tackle the pollution.

Air pollution levels above prescribed limits in 15 of 17 Indian cities with NAQI stations

It said the report is the first analysis of air pollution levels in Indian cities carried out using the NAQI system.

Air pollution

Air pollution levels far exceed the prescribed standards in 15 out of 17 Indian cities where National Air Quality Index (NAQI) stations are situated, Greenpeace India said on Tuesday. The NGO released a ranking report of the 17 cities covered by NAQI, which claimed to have revealed data to challenge the complacence of the central and state governments regarding cities other than Delhi. It said the report is the first analysis of air pollution levels in Indian cities carried out using the NAQI system. Greenpeace India said that the shockingly high pollution figures recorded between April and November indicate the continuing severity of the “air pollution disaster”. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The assessment report said the official data showed that pollution levels in many Indian cities, including Delhi, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Patna, Agra and Kanpur exceed famously toxic levels in Beijing and other Chinese cities, over the period covered by the NAQI data. NAQI was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to monitor quality of air in major urban centres. “As the political capital and the most polluted of all cities, the bad air in Delhi gets the most attention. But, scratch below the murky surface and you will find concentrations of PM2.5 in several other cities – Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Muzzafarpur and Faridabad, amongst others that would justify the triggering of a ‘Red Alert’. “Even the government’s own, largely inadequate NAQI data reveals that 23 of the 32 stations across India are showing more than 70 per cent exceedance of the national standards,” said Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India. The report said that Delhi’s levels over the eight months of data were 12 times as high as the WHO annual guideline and three times as high as the national standard. Another six cities Lucknow, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Kanpur and Varanasi — had average levels at least 10 times as high as the WHO annual guideline, it said. Comparing the situation in China and India, Delhi’s PM2.5 levels in July-November were almost twice as high as the levels in Beijing over the same period (132 vs 69 g/m3), and were even higher than the levels in the most polluted provincial capital – Jinan in Shandong, the report said. It said that PM10 levels in Delhi in the same period were more than three times as high as in Beijing. The report also referred to a modelling study carried out by two Indian researchers at IIT-Delhi which found that 60-90% of PM10 in Delhi is due to emissions outside the megacity.Noting that much of the debate on air pollution focuses on Delhi, the green NGO said “Delhi smog” is actually a “misleading” expression and satellite images of the winter-time pollution episodes show smog extending all the way from Punjab to Bihar, making “North India smog” a more appropriate label.Greenpeace India said that India’s NAQI system remains poor with most prominent cities lacking real time monitoring stations far behind the standards followed in the top 20 biggest cities of European Union, the US and China.On average, there are four air quality stations in cities in EU countries, five in US cities, and eight in Chinese cities displaying real time pollution levels, whereas 10 of India’s biggest cities do not even have a single such monitoring station, it saidDahiya went on to add that pollution levels in a few Indian cities have embarrassing distinction of having exceeded the toxic levels of Beijing and other Chinese cities, demonstrating levels at least ten times higher than the WHO standards, making air pollution truly a national emergency. As part of the first such initiative on analysing air pollution data, Dahiya said that the NAQI in its present form, fails to acknowledge the scale of the problem.”Data is only available in seventeen cities, which is a shockingly low number considering the size of our country. There is an immediate need to diversify and upgrade the manual stations to ambient air quality monitoring stations feeding data to the online NAQI portal. The existing system needs to include short and long-term solutions and advisories,” he said.The report said that the official data confirmed that exposure to toxic particulate pollution (PM2.5 and PM10) is alarmingly high in most Indian cities and National Ambient Air Quality Standards are being continuously violated.It said that the three key contributors to particulate pollution levels are emissions of dust and soot, SO2 and NOx, which form particulate pollution in the atmosphere.Analysis of the chemical composition of PM2.5 pollution indicated that during Delhi’s most polluted season, 25 per cent of the PM2.5 is secondary, meaning that controlling regional SO2 and NOx emissions can be an important approach to tackle the pollution.

Greenpeace India’s registration cancelled by Tamil Nadu Registrar of Societies

The NGO said the fresh notice of cancellation of its registration was an extension of the “deep intolerance” for differing viewpoints which the government was “harbouring” and asserted that it would again seek legal “redress”.

Greenpeace

Greenpeace India on Friday claimed that its registration as a society has been cancelled by Registrar of Societies in Tamil Nadu and said the government’s “clumsy” tactics to suppress free speech was turning into a national and international embarrassment.The NGO said the fresh notice of cancellation of its registration was an extension of the “deep intolerance” for differing viewpoints which the government was “harbouring” and asserted that it would again seek legal “redress”.”Greenpeace India Society has just received notice from the Tamil Nadu Registrar of Societies, summarily announcing cancellation of its registration as a society,” the NGO said in a statement. It said while several international leaders, including the United Nations Secretary General have recently upheld the importance of civil society in healthy democracies, this notice is the “latest assault” on free speech in India.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The RoS is clearly acting under directions of the Home Ministry in Delhi, which has been trying to shut Greenpeace India down for over a year now. “The MHA’s clumsy tactics to suppress free speech and dissenting voices are turning into a major national and international embarrassment for this government,” said Vinuta Gopal, Interim Executive Director of Greenpeace India. It said for the last 18 months, Greenpeace India has endured repeated attempts at suppression through different government authorities.”This is an extension of the deep intolerance for differing viewpoints that sections of this government seem to harbour,” Gopal said. She said the Registrar has passed this order without granting Greenpeace a hearing and without complying with the Madras High Court order to address each of our points and queries. “This is a blatant attempt to circumvent the legal process and shows no respect for the law. We are confident that we are on strong legal ground. We have faith in the legal process and are confident of overcoming this order,” she said.It can be mentioned here that the Union home ministry had recently told Delhi high court that it cancelled the foreign contribution registration of the NGO as it was continuing to use its Foreign Contribution Registration Act (FCRA) accounts despite the suspension of the same.

Greenpeace still part of list of NGOs published by government

This was announced by Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar after releasing the 10th edition of ‘Directory of Environment NGOs’ which surprisingly includes the names of 2,300 NGOs including the controversial Greenpeace.

Government will create a rating system to assess the performance of various green NGOs for allocation of funds after blacklisting of many of them for financial irregularities.This was announced by Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar after releasing the 10th edition of ‘Directory of Environment NGOs’ which surprisingly includes the names of 2,300 NGOs including the controversial Greenpeace. The government had barred Greenpeace from receiving foreign funds by suspending its licence and freezing all its accounts after alleging that it has ‘prejudicially’ affected the country’s interests.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We will create a system where the performance of NGOs receiving Environment Ministry’s grant will be assessed to see whether the money has been spent on the purpose it was mentioned for and second, whether the message for which the amount is given has reached the people and the purpose is achieved,” he said. Maintaining that this will be an incentive for the NGOs to perform better, he said,”We want to create an indexation of NGOs for incentivising them wherein good NGOs will be appreciated and others who fall back will also get stimulus to get better. We would create a constant dialogue with people through NGOs.”The minister said that Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) should not be viewed as the only criterion to recognise NGOs. “FCRA is not the only criterion of recognise NGOs because there are thousands of NGOs who are working without foreign donation and they create resources within the country and work with masses and people. So those organisations will also be recognised,” he said.The directory complied by WWF has enlisted 2,300 organisations and will be put on public domain after few changes and amendments, the minister said.The database covers information under various heads including details such as geographical coverage, commencement of activities, staff strength and contact details. G Areendran, Coordinator, Environment Information System, WWF, said around 4000 NGOs were sent application forms but only 40 per cent of them could be verified.”Verifying authenticity of NGOs was the biggest challenge. They were required to submit mandatory documents including registration number, financial dealings, details of projects, utilisation certificate and auditing,” he said.

HC orders interim stay on cancellation of foreign funds for Greenpeace India

Chennai: In a relief to Greenpeace India Society, the Madras High Court on Wednesday granted an interim stay for eight weeks on the cancellation of the NGO’s registration under Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA).

Justice M M Sundresh stayed the Union Home Ministry’s order of September 2 cancelling FCRA 2010 registration number of the NGO’s and issued a notice to it, returnable in eight weeks.

The Greenpeace India’s Executive Director had filed a petition challenging the cancellation, saying the Centre was taking recourse to the “draconian and unconstitutional” provisions of FCRA “after having failed in its earlier misadventures.”

Greenpeace India has been facing crackdown by govt in recent times. AFP image

Greenpeace India has been facing crackdown by govt in recent times. AFP image

“First they suspended the petitioner’s registration number under FCRA and then issued order to freeze the petitioner’s bank account, including accounts used purely for deposit of domestic funds.”

Greenpeace had already fought several rounds of litigations, including one where it won order permitting the NGO to access its domestic funds, on the ground that domestic funds were beyond the scope of FCRA.

The recent order cancelling FCRA registration of the NGO has been on nine grounds including one which says Greenpeace transferred its foreign contributions worth Rs 8.05 lakh in 2010-11 to employees of Greenpeace Environment Trust in “violation” of FCRA rules.

The NGO said the charge was “wholly false” and that no such transfer was made in violation of the law.

The Centre has alleged that Greenpeace utilized more than 50 per cent of foreign contributions for 2011-12 and 2012-13 for administrative expenditure, which is prohibited by Section 8(1)(b) of FCRA.

The NGO’s petition said this was also a false charge.

Though the Centre claims to possess “information and evidence” to conclude that Greenpeace has “violated” FCRA provisions, the NGO has not been furnished any copy of any such information or evidence, despite repeated requests. “The society, thereby, has been denied an opportunity to defend itself,” the petition said.

The petition claimed that even typographical errors in its documents have been concluded as mistatements and wilful default and added that even before the cancellation order was passed, press releases were issued “betraying the malafide” intention of the government.

PTI

dna Must Read: 5 top stories at this hour

The following quick read will take you through stories that are making news right now.

1) Govt cancels Greenpeace India’s FCRA licence, NGO says determined to fight orderIn yet another crackdown on NGOs, government on Thursday cancelled the registration of Greenpeace India under the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA) for its activities which allegedly hampered country’s economic growth.​ Read the full story here. 2) US Open: Shane Warne warns Nick Kyrgios in open letter<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Australian cricket great Shane Warne has asked controversial tennis player Nick Kyrgios not to ‘waste his talent’ in an open letter following his early-exit from US Open against Andy Murray.​ Want to know what else Shane Warne wrote? Click here. 3) 18-year-old Yazidi escapee reveals Islamic State slave marketAn 18-year-old Yazidi girl, Jinan who escaped from Islamist State jihadists after being captured in 2014 will be releasing her book on Friday about how the group carries out an international “slave market” where women are sold as sexual slaves. Read her full account here. 4) Sharad Yadav meets Mulayam Singh Yadav; says grand alliance will remain intactOn Thursday morning, SP, led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, had announced exit from the grand alliance saying it felt “humiliated” at being allotted a paltry five seats and deciding to contest the elections on its own. After their meeting, Sharad Yadav told media that the grand alliance is still on and seat sharing will be discussed later. Read the full report here. 5) Taylor Swift’s ‘Wildest Dreams’ video draws backlash for racismAlthough Taylor Swift is donating all profits to African Parks Foundation of America that the ‘Wildest Dreams’ video is bringing in, critics have seized it, which appears to be set in the 1930s or 1940s, as portraying a stereotyped colonial-era view of Africa.​ Read what exactly happened, here.

Relief for Ford Foundation unlikely anytime soon

“We have no plans to review the decision on Ford Foundation as of now,” a senior Home Ministry official said

The curb imposed on the US-based Ford Foundation is unlikely to be lifted anytime soon as the government has no immediate plans to review the decision to put it in ‘prior permission’ category.”We have no plans to review the decision on Ford Foundation as of now,” a senior Home Ministry official said. In April, the Home Ministry had put the American philanthropy organisation Ford Foundation under the ‘prior permission’ category following allegations that it had donated funds to some non-FCRA registered organisations and profit- making organisations.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Both acts are illegal under the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act. Putting under ‘prior permission’ category means banks will have to take prior permission from the Home Ministry before allowing any funds from Ford Foundation to be credited to bank accounts of any Indian organisation.Sources said India is unmoved by the concern expressed by the United States over crackdown on Ford Foundation. “We are aware that the (Indian) Ministry of Home Affairs suspended the registration of Greenpeace India and has placed Ford Foundation on a prior permission watch list.”We remain concerned about the difficulties caused to civil society organisations by the manner in which FCRA has been applied,” US State Department deputy acting spokesperson Marie Harf had said, adding Washington sought a “clarification” from New Delhi. Reports also suggested that a US delegation, led by under secretary for political affairs Wendy Sherman, had asked an Indian delegation in June on the restrictions imposed on Ford Foundation and some other NGOs.India has denied any suggestion of a witch hunt against Ford Foundation or any of the big NGOs that are currently under the scanner. Meanwhile, the Indian arm of the Foundation, which was not registered under FCRA, is believed to have expressed its willingness to register under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), the sources said. The Home Ministry had recently taken a series of steps against various NGOs, including Greenpeace India and two NGOs run by social activist Teesta Setalvad. It had cancelled the registration of more than 10,000 NGOs.

Greenpeace cautions bidders on 39 coal blocks ahead of auction

NGO Greenpeace India on Friday claimed that a significant number of coal blocks which would be up for auction later this month fall in ecologically critical areas due to which they are likely to face delays in securing clearances and “advised” the bidders to stay away from them.

NGO Greenpeace India on Friday claimed that a significant number of coal blocks which would be up for auction later this month fall in ecologically critical areas due to which they are likely to face delays in securing clearances and “advised” the bidders to stay away from them.The NGO, which has been mired in controversy of late over alleged violations of rules, alleged that by continuing to put forests up for mining, government is being “short-sighted” as it will harm the environment and at the same time mean higher risks for project developers as well.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Out of the 101 blocks earmarked for auctioned by the coal ministry this year, at least 39 are in ecologically critical areas, covering a total forest area of more than 10,500 hectares.”These blocks are likely to face significant delays in securing clearances, apart from the likelihood of legal challenges and opposition from affected communities,” the NGO which conducted a Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis said in a statement and added that auction of another set of coal blocks is likely to take place between August 11-17.It said that the blocks were spread in eight different states including Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal.About 35 blocks are in tiger, leopard or elephant habitat and 20 are within 10 kilometres of a protected area or identified wildlife corridor.”Potential bidders are advised to stay away from at least these 39 identified blocks and to assess independently the forest, livelihoods and wildlife issues of the blocks they intend to bid on,” the NGO said.”By continuing to put good quality forests up for mining, the government is being short-sighted. This will harm the environment and will also mean higher risks for project developers, investors and shareholders as it will lead to more conflict, legal challenges and community opposition, as we saw in the case of the Mahan coal block in Singrauli,” said Nandikesh Sivalingam, a Greenpeace activist.Noting that the coal scam and the Supreme Court verdict presented a golden opportunity to make amends, he said that a transparent, scientifically rigorous inviolate forest policy was the right thing to do in order to rearrange coal mining in such a way that it had less impact on forests, tribal communities and wildlife.”At the same time, this would have ensured a greater certainty for investors and project developers but the Environment Ministry has showed it is unable or unwilling to protect some of India’s last remaining forests from mining,” said Sivalingam.

St Stephen’s shame: Victim’s FIR reveals true horror of sexual harassment

How has India taught you to respond to sexual violence? With outrage? Not really. With fear? Somewhat, yes. With shame? Most definitely. No one should know that your breasts have been groped by random strangers in public spaces or by men you know in professional spaces. No one should know if your butt has been pinched, your body rubbed against or touched in ways that made you want to puke. In popular understanding of sexual violence, it is your body’s shame first. So the first response to it should be denial and silence. Till the trauma just spills over. The Delhi University PhD student, who has accused a St Stephen’s College assistant professor of sexual harassment, followed this widely endorsed though unwritten rulebook of responding to sexual violence in India.

So it took her over three years to to take resolute steps in acting against the supervisor, who she alleges began harassing her in 2012.  Firstpost now has a copy of her FIR, where she details how Satish Kumar, the chemistry professor she was working under, had taken complete advantage of his position of superiority and subjected her to sexually coloured remarks relentlessly and then taken to touching her inappropriately. She writes in her FIR that on October 15, 2013, Satish Kumar had ‘sexually assaulted her’. “On that day, he pulled me toward himself, he puts his hands on my breasts and he completely grabbed me and he put his hands on my private parts,” the complainant writes in the FIR.

And that was the culmination – for want of a better word – of a year-long, systematic process of verbal and physical sexual harassment.

St Stephen's College.St Stephen's College.

St Stephen’s College.

The complainant recounts in her FIR how Kumar had tried to hug her (apparently, a creating a new compound in the lab would make him want to hug her), touch her breasts several times and even touch her thighs. On one occasion her had asked her if she had a ‘thigh gap’. “It’s good to have gap in women’s thighs and you have gap in your thighs…” the FIR quotes him as saying.

He showed her pictures of naked women on the pretext of showing her software he had downloaded for work, he talked about videos women shoot with their boyfriends and most of his conversations were sexually coloured. On the other hand, he also made sure that his sexual overtures would go unreported thanks to the victim’s fear of endangering her thesis.

So he covertly kept recounting anecdotes about the importance of a supervisor in a PhD student’s life. From suggesting that students who speak up against their guides never get other professors to guide them to saying that it is necessary to get a supervisor’s recommendation while applying for jobs, Kumar intimidated and blackmailed the student into silence by suggesting that everything she cared fiercely about – higher education, a job, the magic letters of a Ph.D – depended on his whims.

These are all allegations in the FIR. And Kumar will get to tell his side of the story. But the question is what could allowed and empower someone to harass his student with such brazen impunity?

Firstly, it’s the absence of a culture of reporting sexual harassment. As we mentioned above, abusers are sharply aware of of the burden of shame that that a victim of harassment carries. And from past instances, the likes of Kumar, know that most victims prefer to lug the shame around instead of dealing with the additional discomfort of moral scrutiny and character assassination.

Then again, forget a culture of reporting, we are not even sure about the right way to hold a conversation around sexual violence especially in professional and private spaces. For example, imagine walking up  to the principal of your college and saying that a professor asked you if you have a gap between your thighs. Chances are victims feel embarrassed to go into the grimy details of such incidents, wondering how it would reflect upon themselves.

That apart, the St Stephen’s incident is complicated by class. The victim mentions in the FIR that she hails from a ‘humble’ family from Teekhi village in Gurgaon, Haryana. She definitely doesn’t fit the profile of the upper middle class and affluent students who study in the college. In fact, the college’s principal, seemed to emphasize the fact that the victim was a registered research student of Delhi University and not really a student of St. Stephen’s college in his NDTV oped too. It makes you wonder what would have happened if her father had come from an economic class which gave him the confidence to demand justice instead of pleading with “folded hands” to save his daughter’s future?

The op-ed which says “facts do not lie” leave other questions unanswered. Thampu writes he had no authority over the student since she was not a student of his college. But of course Kumar was a professor in his college. Did Thampu take up the complaint with Kumar separately? Did he, even for the purpose of verification, ask Kumar what made a woman student level such allegations against him? Did he warn Kumar against doing anything that would make the student uncomfortable? By his own admission, he didn’t. He says he asked her to file a complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee and called a meeting with both the complainant and her advisor and in that meeting she does not “utter a word about sexual harassment”. In fact, his NDTV oped is entirely devoted to countering the victim’s FIR, though he doesn’t deny that she may have been sexually harassed. Dr. Thampu lashes out instead at wolves in sheep’s clothing and those who seek “sadistic media limelight” at the expense of the college.

The St Stephen’s case reiterates the idea that in spaces with a hallowed reputation, victims of sexual violence are further burdened with the responsibility of not tarnishing the reputation of the institution. That, in turn, allows sexual predators to behave with the kind of impunity that Kumar allegedly did.

The pattern is the same – from the Tehelka sexual violence case to the Greenpeace sexual harassment case. The accused in all these cases are alleged to have invoked their positions and their organisation’s larger-than-life reputation – directly or as insinuation – to send the victims scrambling for support elsewhere.

Thampu did what Tehelka and then Greenpeace did. He hoped that this too shall pass, that this too could be managed without raising a stink because the victim, humbled by the mighty reputation of the institution she was up against would eventually give up. She had already shown enough signs of being anxious about the repercussions on her career and the institution looks like it took full advantage of it to hush up the case.

Dr. Thampu – the head of one of the country’s most coveted educational institute – did nothing to allay her or her family’s fears that filing a case of sexual harassment would tarnish the victim’s reputation first. Thampu recalls meeting her father, “With folded hands, the father pleads with the Principal not to turn this into a complaint of sexual harassment as it could result in a scandal and also affect his daughter’s chance of getting a Ph.D.” 

Instead of assuaging the man’s desperation, Thampu now stands accused of having used it to protect the reputation of his institution. Whether he followed the rulebook to the barest minimum or not, Thampu would have done a favour to the idea of a truly liberal educational institute had he backed the victim in her fight against harassment. Instead now he looks like a principal for whom the institution’s reputation came first, way ahead of the victim’s plight.

Greenpeace ends employment of rape, sexual harassment accused

New Delhi: Facing a fresh controversy, Greenpeace India on Wednesday claimed that it has “ended” the employment of two of its employees – one allegedly involved in cases of rape of a woman employee of the organisation and the other accused of several cases of sexual harassment.

AFP image.AFP image.

AFP image.

The statement comes after one of its ex-employees wrote an article which was published on a web forum last week alleging rape and sexual harassment by colleagues at Greenpeace India.

“The staff members, who had previously submitted their resignations, were informed today that they must leave the organisation immediately and they would not be required to serve out their formal notice period,” it said in a statement.

It claimed that Greenpeace India has also set up a “new” Internal Complaints Committee to address “previous failures” in its internal process and expresses its full commitment to ensuring that incidents of sexual harassment are never repeated within the organisation. The NGO had yesterday tendered an unconditional apology for the way it handled the alleged sexual harassment case and said it is investigating the matter.

“We’ve taken a number of steps to try to improve the situation and will take further steps to make people feel safe from any kind of workplace harassment…our internal processes failed and we did not handle that complaint adequately and have admitted to it.

“We asked the colleague in question if we could re- investigate the matter, but she declined, citing our initial failures and her lack of confidence in our procedures,” the statement said.

PTI

Greenpeace sexual harassment scandal: NGOs will pay a high price, and rightly so

Stories about sexual harassment and murky shenanigans are not that unusual in the NGO world. And why should they be? These are human failings. TERI is dealing with allegations against its high-profile head RK Pachauri as well. But they come at a particularly inopportune time for Greenpeace India whose plate is already full and whose coffers are under severe strain.

An ex-staffer has alleged that a colleague insisted she sleep in his hotel suite during an official visit to Hyderabad. He also tried to force-feed her birthday cake despite her discomfort. What’s even more damning, she says, is the organization took little to no action when she registered a complaint. And that members of the Internal Complaints Committee made her feel at fault for not knowing how to “set boundaries”.

AFP image.AFP image.

AFP image.

Later she says she was raped by a male colleague who found her unconscious after a party. Already burned by her experience with reporting the sexual harassment she did not report the rape to the police or her employers. “How could I when the process had failed me already?” she writes.

This is tricky territory. By not going to the police or the employers, but choosing to write about her experiences on a blog, the stage is set for a trial by media where the burden of proof is much lower. The public has to just choose which side they want to believe. And those lambasting, Greenpeace because they think it’s a meddlesome organization, which is against India’s “national” interests will be happy to latch on to this as more proof of their perfidy.

Greenpeace has tried to defend itself, issuing an apology on its website and admitting that the cases “should have been handled in a better way.” The ICC has been reconstituted and is doing an audit of old cases. The implicated employee resigned after a strong warning and Greenpeace admits, “The victim deserves both an apology and a meticulous examination of what happened.”

But this points to a larger malaise which NGOs would do well to note. Bigger companies have a more standardized HR protocol in place to deal with these issues when they crop up within the organization. We have all rolled our eyes at sexual harassment courses and modules but they are there for a reason – to establish a protocol. A smaller NGO often does not have the bandwidth to do it or even worse assumes that it has no need for such “bureaucracy” because it sits on a higher moral pedestal anyway.

There is this idea that “NGO work” is driven by a moral sense of purpose rather than just the impetus to draw a paycheck. That’s one of the reasons it’s often poorly paid, especially down the ranks. The job satisfaction is in the work, not necessarily the salary. But it also puts, rather unfairly, a greater burden of probity on an NGO as compared to some mining company. A sexual harassment scandal in a company, that is anyway accused of driving tribals off their ancestral land by hook or by crook, is news but that same scandal in a Greenpeace becomes evidence of hypocrisy.

When iGate Corp fired its CEO Phaneesh Murthy over the claim of sexual harassment and a relationship with a subordinate in 2013, it emerged that in 2002 he had to quit Infosys after being charged with a sexual harassment suit by an American employee that resulted in a $3 million out-of-court settlement. It was a scandal but did not invite charges of hypocrisy and double standards of corporations who preached one thing and did another.

An NGO, unfortunately, like Caesar’s wife has to be above suspicion. It’s unfair in many ways that it has to be held to a higher standard but that comes with the territory. When you are in the business of finger wagging at others, you always run the risk of others being eager to point their fingers back at you. And an NGO like Greenpeace has far more powerful enemies than a mining company or a tech company.

If anything this case should be a wake up call to other NGOs that at the very least they need to have a robust mechanism in place for dealing with these situations internally. Sexual harassment can happen in any workplace. It’s how an organization deals with it when a complaint crops up that’s really important. Ultimately the biggest asset an NGO has it not its balance sheet or share price but its reputation.

The Indian government crackdown on Greenpeace and the sexual harassment scandal currently rocking the NGO have nothing to do with each other. But the timing is a PR nightmare for the already embattled NGO. Its battle for survival in India will not be helped by the irony of Greenpeace local management appearing lackadaisical about dirty goings on at home while wagging its finger at corporations and governments for polluting the environment at large.

People who live in greenhouses should not be throwing stones.

Greenpeace will pay high price for the sexual harassment scandal, and rightly so

Stories about sexual harassment and murky shenanigans are not that unusual in the NGO world. And why should they be? These are human failings. TERI is dealing with allegations against its high-profile head RK Pachauri as well. But they come at a particularly inopportune time for Greenpeace India whose plate is already full and whose coffers are under severe strain.

An ex-staffer has alleged that a colleague insisted she sleep in his hotel suite during an official visit to Hyderabad. He also tried to force-feed her birthday cake despite her discomfort. What’s even more damning, she says, is the organization took little to no action when she registered a complaint. And that members of the Internal Complaints Committee made her feel at fault for not knowing how to “set boundaries”.

AFP image.AFP image.

AFP image.

Later she says she was raped by a male colleague who found her unconscious after a party. Already burned by her experience with reporting the sexual harassment she did not report the rape to the police or her employers. “How could I when the process had failed me already?” she writes.

This is tricky territory. By not going to the police or the employers, but choosing to write about her experiences on a blog, the stage is set for a trial by media where the burden of proof is much lower. The public has to just choose which side they want to believe. And those lambasting, Greenpeace because they think it’s a meddlesome organization, which is against India’s “national” interests will be happy to latch on to this as more proof of their perfidy.

Greenpeace has tried to defend itself, issuing an apology on its website and admitting that the cases “should have been handled in a better way.” The ICC has been reconstituted and is doing an audit of old cases. The implicated employee resigned after a strong warning and Greenpeace admits, “The victim deserves both an apology and a meticulous examination of what happened.”

But this points to a larger malaise which NGOs would do well to note. Bigger companies have a more standardized HR protocol in place to deal with these issues when they crop up within the organization. We have all rolled our eyes at sexual harassment courses and modules but they are there for a reason – to establish a protocol. A smaller NGO often does not have the bandwidth to do it or even worse assumes that it has no need for such “bureaucracy” because it sits on a higher moral pedestal anyway.

There is this idea that “NGO work” is driven by a moral sense of purpose rather than just the impetus to draw a paycheck. That’s one of the reasons it’s often poorly paid, especially down the ranks. The job satisfaction is in the work, not necessarily the salary. But it also puts, rather unfairly, a greater burden of probity on an NGO as compared to some mining company. A sexual harassment scandal in a company, that is anyway accused of driving tribals off their ancestral land by hook or by crook, is news but that same scandal in a Greenpeace becomes evidence of hypocrisy.

When iGate Corp fired its CEO Phaneesh Murthy over the claim of sexual harassment and a relationship with a subordinate in 2013, it emerged that in 2002 he had to quit Infosys after being charged with a sexual harassment suit by an American employee that resulted in a $3 million out-of-court settlement. It was a scandal but did not invite charges of hypocrisy and double standards of corporations who preached one thing and did another.

An NGO, unfortunately, like Caesar’s wife has to be above suspicion. It’s unfair in many ways that it has to be held to a higher standard but that comes with the territory. When you are in the business of finger wagging at others, you always run the risk of others being eager to point their fingers back at you. And an NGO like Greenpeace has far more powerful enemies than a mining company or a tech company.

If anything this case should be a wake up call to other NGOs that at the very least they need to have a robust mechanism in place for dealing with these situations internally. Sexual harassment can happen in any workplace. It’s how an organization deals with it when a complaint crops up that’s really important. Ultimately the biggest asset an NGO has it not its balance sheet or share price but its reputation.

The Indian government crackdown on Greenpeace and the sexual harassment scandal currently rocking the NGO have nothing to do with each other. But the timing is a PR nightmare for the already embattled NGO. Its battle for survival in India will not be helped by the irony of Greenpeace local management appearing lackadaisical about dirty goings on at home while wagging its finger at corporations and governments for polluting the environment at large.

People who live in greenhouses should not be throwing stones.

Greenpeace will pay a high price for the sexual harassment scandal, and rightly so

Stories about sexual harassment and murky shenanigans are not that unusual in the NGO world. And why should they be? These are human failings. TERI is dealing with allegations against its high-profile head RK Pachauri as well. But they come at a particularly inopportune time for Greenpeace India whose plate is already full and whose coffers are under severe strain.

An ex-staffer has alleged that a colleague insisted she sleep in his hotel suite during an official visit to Bengaluru. He also tried to force-feed her birthday cake despite her discomfort. What’s even more damning, she says, is the organization took little to no action when she registered a complaint. And that members of the Internal Complaints Committee made her feel at fault for not knowing how to “set boundaries”.

AFP image.AFP image.

AFP image.

Later she says she was raped by a male colleague who found her unconscious after a party. Already burned by her experience with reporting the sexual harassment she did not report the rape to the police or her employers. “How could I when the process had failed me already?” she writes.

This is tricky territory. By not going to the police or the employers, but choosing to write about her experiences on a blog, the stage is set for a trial by media where the burden of proof is much lower. The public has to just choose which side they want to believe. And those lambasting, Greenpeace because they think it’s a meddlesome organization, which is against India’s “national” interests will be happy to latch on to this as more proof of their perfidy.

Greenpeace has tried to defend itself, issuing an apology on its website and admitting that the cases “should have been handled in a better way.” The ICC has been reconstituted and is doing an audit of old cases. The implicated employee resigned after a strong warning and Greenpeace admits, “The victim deserves both an apology and a meticulous examination of what happened.”

But this points to a larger malaise which NGOs would do well to note. Bigger companies have a more standardized HR protocol in place to deal with these issues when they crop up within the organization. We have all rolled our eyes at sexual harassment courses and modules but they are there for a reason – to establish a protocol. A smaller NGO often does not have the bandwidth to do it or even worse assumes that it has no need for such “bureaucracy” because it sits on a higher moral pedestal anyway.

There is this idea that “NGO work” is driven by a moral sense of purpose rather than just the impetus to draw a paycheck. That’s one of the reasons it’s often poorly paid, especially down the ranks. The job satisfaction is in the work, not necessarily the salary. But it also puts, rather unfairly, a greater burden of probity on an NGO as compared to some mining company. A sexual harassment scandal in a company, that is anyway accused of driving tribals off their ancestral land by hook or by crook, is news but that same scandal in a Greenpeace becomes evidence of hypocrisy.

When iGate Corp fired its CEO Phaneesh Murthy over the claim of sexual harassment and a relationship with a subordinate in 2013, it emerged that in 2002 he had to quit Infosys after being charged with a sexual harassment suit by an American employee that resulted in a $3 million out-of-court settlement. It was a scandal but did not invite charges of hypocrisy and double standards of corporations who preached one thing and did another.

An NGO, unfortunately, like Caesar’s wife has to be above suspicion. It’s unfair in many ways that it has to be held to a higher standard but that comes with the territory. When you are in the business of finger wagging at others, you always run the risk of others being eager to point their fingers back at you. And an NGO like Greenpeace has far more powerful enemies than a mining company or a tech company.

If anything this case should be a wake up call to other NGOs that at the very least they need to have a robust mechanism in place for dealing with these situations internally. Sexual harassment can happen in any workplace. It’s how an organization deals with it when a complaint crops up that’s really important. Ultimately the biggest asset an NGO has it not its balance sheet or share price but its reputation.

The Indian government crackdown on Greenpeace and the sexual harassment scandal currently rocking the NGO have nothing to do with each other. But the timing is a PR nightmare for the already embattled NGO. Its battle for survival in India will not be helped by the irony of Greenpeace local management appearing lackadaisical about dirty goings on at home while wagging its finger at corporations and governments for polluting the environment at large.

People who live in greenhouses should not be throwing stones.

New revelations and multiple complaints: Greenpeace India mired in sexual harassment charges

New Delhi: Environment rights NGO Greenpeace India could be in for more trouble as an ex-staffer has gone public with allegations of rape and sexual harassment by her colleagues.

The organization’s inaction against the perpetrators has spurred more female ex-employees to come out with similar accusations. Now, the NGO is at the receiving end with activists lambasting the organization’s irresponsible handling of the cases.

Recently, Greenpeace was in the news after the government froze it’s accounts for non-compliance of norms. The Delhi high court, however, released two of its accounts so that it could function.

AFPAFP

AFP

In an article published on a web forum last week, an ex-employee (name withheld) of Greenpeace alleged that she had to leave her job in 2013 after being sexually harassed and raped by her colleagues.

Narrating her ordeal, she said that it started a year after she had joined the NGO at their Bengaluru office. The first incident happened during an official trip in October 2012. “I got a call from a senior colleague at 11pm, asking me to vacate my room and insisting that I sleep in his suite. In another incident, he approached me physically despite my discomfort, insisted on force-feeding me birthday cake,” she told IANS.

Though she registered a written complaint with the HR manager, she did not receive any verbal or written communication from the internal complaints committee (ICC) of the organization, which looks into sexual harassment cases. To her shock, she learnt that the person was a serial offender and no action had been taken against him despite his misbehaviour with two other female employees.

However, she said, she was blamed for registering the complaint. “Once in an official meeting, in my absence, two senior employees indulged in character assassination against me. Even some female colleagues, part of the ICC, made me feel that I was at fault, that I didn’t know how to ‘set boundaries’,” she said.

However, matters came to a head in 2013. “It was after a party, when a male colleague whom I knew quite well found me unconscious and raped me. You cannot imagine the pain and fear I went through. I was terrified to speak and I knew even if I had, no one in this organization would come to my aid. I did not have the strength to report my rape, neither to the police, nor to my employers. How could I, when the processes had failed me once already?” she asked. Traumatized, she left the NGO after a few months.

She said it took her long to overcome the incident, and finally, she decided to tell her story through a Facebook post in February this year. Immediately after her post, Greenpeace issued an apology on their website and promised her to re-investigate the case in an adequate manner. Admitting the lax attitude in dealing with the case in 2012, the statement said, “The victim deserves both an apology and a meticulous examination of what happened.”
However, the victim pointed out that the NGO’s subsequent actions exposed their empty talk. “The ICC, which convened in March, recommended the termination of the offender, but the executive director overrode the decision on some pretext and the only thing I received was a written apology from the molester,”” she said.

Supporting the claims of the victim, another ex-senior manager Reema Ganguly, who was a part of the ICC, told IANS that she quit Greenpeace in May after executive director Samit Aich overrode the committee’s recommendation. “The committee’s suggestion of terminating the molester was overturned by the executive director, and they dismantled the committee which was only three months old, whereas the duration (for such a committee) is for three years. It was very clear that the committee is an eyewash by the NGO,” said Ganguly.

However, Aich defended the decision to dismantle the committee. “‘We came to know that the committee decisions were leaked to many people in the office. So I sought legal opinion on this and I was told that since its leaked, the decision stands invalid. So we dissolved the committee and reconstituted it,”” said Aich.

When asked why they did not follow the committee’s decision of terminating the offender, Aich said a strong warning was given to the person. “I have given a strong warning to the person and as a result, he has put in his papers. I admit that there have been flaws in our earlier system and we will tighten our disciplinary actions in future,”” he added.

Reacting to the allegations, programme director for Greenpeace India, Divya Raghunandan, told IANS that the former employees had raised some valid issues and that they will investigate it in a “serious manner”. Acknowledging that there were flaws in the earlier system, Raghunandan said, “When we revisited the cases, we felt that it should have been handled in a better way.”

Asserting that they were re-evaluating the overall procedures for handling complaints of sexual harassment, she said that the employee in question had resigned. “We have reconstituted the ICC and ordered an audit into the old cases. The implicated employee has put in his papers already,” she said.

However, activists and former employees question the failure of the NGO in punishing a serial offender and protecting him for years.

Holding the executive director of Greenpeace India responsible for the shabby handling of the cases, Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, said that the events had tarnished the image of the NGO. “Greenpeace failed to stand by their promise of punishing the offender. They disbanded a committee, which recommended punishment for the molester. The NGO is muzzling voices of dissent. They have stretched the cases for so many years. The punishment has to be spelt out clearly,” Krishnan said adding that they have written to Greenpeace International and were waiting for their response to act further.

Voicing similar concerns, Usha Saxena, a former employee, alleged that she was forced to quit Greenpeace because she took a stand against the rampant cases of harassment in the NGO. Saxena, who joined Greenpeace in 2009, said that her protests against sexist jokes and remarks fell on deaf ears.

“I filed a misconduct complaint against senior HR director for making discriminatory and threatening remarks about my gender, my age and ordering me to seek “psychological counselling”. For that, I was bullied out in 2013,” Saxena told IANS.

Another ex-staffer (name withheld) also said that she was harassed by the same person implicated in the first incident. She said she resigned in March 2015 after inaction by the NGO. “He made some objectionable comments in front of many senior colleagues, including the executive director. No one reacted, rather they were all amused. “Though she registered a complaint with the HR Department the next day, it met the same fate as the previous ones,” she told IANS.

She also said she would take further legal action if the offender is not punished.

IANS

Bharat far away from Swacch: Brooming the country is a daily job, Mr PM

New Delhi: Four months after becoming prime minister, Narendra Modi stunned Indians by picking up a crude straw broom and, holding it like a dance partner, gently sweeping at a small pile of green leaves on a New Delhi street.

Modi, ever the darling of photo ops and grinning selfies, seemed to be calling for a cultural revolution, defying centuries-old hierarchies that make the idea of an official cleaning a street anathema in Indian society. By leading a new campaign called “Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan” or “Clean India Mission,” Modi challenged those divisions while dignifying labor and elevating cleanliness as a nationwide goal.

That was the first and last time the public saw Modi with a broom. As he passes one year in office, India is as filthy as it ever was with some of the world’s most polluted air, rivers stinking with sewage and more than half the 1.2 billion population still defecating in the open. Despite lofty promises of a new pristine world filled with smart cities, sparkling waterways, solar panels and toilets for all, it is a mystery how Modi plans to get there.

Has PM Modi's Swacch Bharat Abhiyan ran out of steam? PIB

Has PM Modi’s Swacch Bharat Abhiyan ran out of steam? PIB

At the same time, environment experts say, the government is laying the groundwork to dismantle hard-fought laws for protecting the environment. With hundreds of millions mired in poverty, many believe economic growth at any cost is the only thing that matters. The latest budget slashed environment funds by 25 percent, with little outcry. And business leaders have been effusive about Modi’s leadership, crediting his constant globe-trotting with boosting investor sentiment and raising India’s profile worldwide.

Modi’s approach embodies “the idea that like the West we will grow and clean up later,” said historian Ramachandra Guha. “But we don’t have access to colonies like Europe had,” he said. “There is no part of India where no one lives. If you excavate a coal mine, or build a factory on a river, you are depriving someone of land, or clean water, or forests.”

India has a long record of making plans that come to nothing. Previous governments also vowed better sanitation, cleaner rivers, renewable energy and various anti-pollution measures.

Modi’s promises on the environment include expanding solar power five-fold by 2022, ensuring everyone has access to a toilet by 2019, and cleaning the Ganges river of sewage and pollutants. The sanitation pledge alone requires building 70,000 toilets per day. The country is still 100 million toilets short of its goal while funds for sanitation were halved in the last budget.

Environmentalists worry most about what is to come from Modi’s government. They point to a mounting assault on environmental protections meant to check pollution, prevent unfair land-grabbing and establish legal rights for tribal communities to oversee the land they live on.

Specifically, the critics object to the loosening of rules such as requiring local consent for mineral prospecting as well as to longer-term plans for overhauling the country’s six keystone environment laws.

One of Modi’s first acts as prime minister was to form a committee that within three months issued a report recommending a wholesale shift in environmental regulation. The recommendations include eliminating independent pollution regulators and having industries police themselves.

All project clearances would be handled by a single government-appointed panel and eliminate the need for forest communities to approve diversion of their lands for industrial use. The Subramanian Committee report also suggests revising the mandate of India’s environmental courts so that they consider only existing law and not scientific arguments and other considerations.

While it’s unclear which recommendations Modi’s government will adopt, environmentalists believe it will embrace most of them within legislation soon to be presented in Parliament.

“If the laws aren’t working properly, you don’t just throw them out. You’re supposed to implement them, or make them better,” said Leo Saldanha of the Environment Support Group, which has campaigned against the report’s recommendations.

“Most of these changes will have adverse implications for decades. Modi won’t even be around to see the consequences of what he’s doing.”

Modi and many of his ministers have made clear they see India’s environmental laws as roadblocks to economic development, holding up industry and halting infrastructure such as dams, highways and railways.

India’s growth languished between 4 and 5 percent for several years as business confidence and investment wilted under the weight of chaotic bureaucracy, policy U-turns and epic corruption scandals. But economists forecast India to overtake China as the world’s fastest growing economy this year with a 7.4 percent expansion.

Environmental degradation, meanwhile, is already costing India at least 5.7 percent of its GDP each year, according to the World Bank. Those losses are expected to increase as the compound effects of pollution sicken more people while more of India’s forests vanish, soils continue to degrade and aquifers run dry.

Past governments have opened debate to communities and activists, but the Modi government has cracked down on groups such as the Ford Foundation, Greenpeace and Action Aid.

Critics warn Modi may be courting a backlash by undermining the rights of local communities and by sacrificing decades of environmental laws that required rigorous assessment of industrial consequences, even if those laws weren’t always implemented.

Fishermen have begun protesting coastal pollution, while tens of thousands of farmers rallied last month against plans to make land acquisitions easier. A decades-long Maoist insurgency continues unabated and with support from forest-dwelling communities who also seek a greater share of the country’s natural resource wealth.

“I have this feeling that all of this will ultimately go wrong,” said Pushp Jain, director of a Delhi-based environment consulting group ERC.

“If they take away public hearings, which is where affected people can be heard, then you have a problem.”

AP

Centre defends cancellation of FCRA registration of Greenpeace before HC

New Delhi: The Union government on Tuesday defended its decision to cancel the foreign contribution registration of Greenpeace India before Delhi High Court, saying the NGO had violated the norms by opening five accounts to utilise foreign donations without informing the relevant authorities.

Greenpeace-IndiaGreenpeace-IndiaThe Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in an affidavit before Justice Rajiv Shakdher, charged Greenpeace with violating Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) by merging its foreign donations with domestic contributions.

The ministry also told the court that on the question of releasing funds for the NGO’s day-to-day expenses, “statutory remedy is available under Rule 14 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules (FCRR)” which provides that 25 per cent of the unutilised amount in the FCRA account can be used with government approval.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain, appearing for MHA, said Greenpeace has already applied for seeking benefits under Rule 14 which has not been disclosed to the court.

He also claimed that the NGO was not using the donations for the purpose they were received.

The government affidavit said, “it was found that petitioner (Greenpeace) receives huge amount of foreign contribution running into crores of rupees which is though deposited in FCRA account, is diverted to such other utilisation accounts in which foreign contribution has been merged with domestic receipts contrary to the Act”.

Greenpeace, during the hearing, told the court that due to freeze on its domestic accounts, it has lost donations to the extent of Rs 1.25 crore only this month which were made by its Indian contributors.

It said if the court does not intervene, then it would lose the same amount of domestic donations in June as well.

PTI

Greenpeace replies to govt show-cause notice, slams ‘unfounded’ claims

New Delhi: Greenpeace India on Friday accused the government of using “unfounded” allegations in an attempt to “silence” it as the NGO submitted a comprehensive rebuttal to the Home Ministry’s show-cause and demanded immediate unblocking of its domestic bank accounts.

Greenpeace India.Greenpeace India.

Greenpeace India.

In its 26-page rebuttal on allegations involving its internal finances and its compliance with the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA), the NGO said that the show-cause notice was “riddled” with clerical errors and baseless allegations.

It further accused the Home Ministry of “leaking misinformation” to the media instead of abiding by the principles of natural justice and also charged that it had failed to respond to its own requests for documents.

“We are confident that this response establishes our legitimacy beyond any doubt. We have addressed every allegation made against us and responded in a transparent and honest way throughout.

“In contrast, the MHA has used unfounded allegations and arbitrary penalties in a blatant attempt to silence us. We remain proud of our campaigns for clean air, water and affordable energy, and refuse to be intimidated by such dirty tricks,” said Samit Aich, executive director, Greenpeace India.

The government has barred Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds by suspending its licence for six months and freezing all its accounts after alleging that it has “prejudicially” affected the country’s interests.

The rebuttal, which was delivered in person today by an official delegation from Greenpeace India, comes after the NGO recently said it was staring at an “imminent” shutdown within a month in the absence of funds for payment of staff salaries.

Elaborating on some key “weaknesses” in Home Ministry’s case and replying to claims that it had made incorrect statements about foreign contributions, the NGO said that the difference between the Greenpeace and MHA figures is just 0.64 per cent of its entire foreign funding over six years.

“The FCRA only targets ‘knowing errors’. There is clearly no reason for Greenpeace India to either overstate or understate such a small amount knowingly or intentionally,” it said.

PTI

Greenpeace ugly, Ford tolerable, Gates good: How Modi govt is classifying NGOs

If you take the audio tour of the legendary prison on San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island you can see the nondescript cell that housed one of its most famous inhabitants – the notorious gangster Al Capone. He left a trail of bodies behind him but what he finally went to jail for was tax evasion. Those books leave a paper trail that can trip you up even when bodies don’t.

NGOs in India will not like being compared to a gangster. But they too are learning the hard way that when a government does not like their mission and ideology, they can put the screws on them by going through their books.

This is not to argue that an international NGO should blithely disregard a country’s regulations just because its stated mission is doing good. As Salman Khan has proved to us yesterday, Being a (good) Human does not put you above the law.

Representational image.Representational image.

Representational image.

Of course every foundation should obey tax laws but chances are if we really set an accountant to work on the books of every NGO and corporation they will find they all live in glass houses and no one can afford to throw stones. And only the most willfully blind will pretend that this spurt of government muscle-flexing when it comes to NGOs is just about bookkeeping and has nothing to do with the ideology of those organizations.

Put simply, it’s clear that the message is there are NGOs the government likes, NGOs a government tolerates and NGOs it wants to get rid of. And if you are in the last group, you’d better make sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

Greenpeace in that sense was an obvious target and an easy one. The government also know that it would face little international outrage if it got Greenpeace to shut shop. Greenpeace routinely gets under the skin of governments by building agitations and movements against development projects a government desperately wants. The French government famously blew up the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Operation Satanique when it was on its way to protest a French nuclear test in Moruroa. That was a PR disaster for the French government which had initially denied any involvement but the Indian government will not face any such flak. Greenpeace calls it “strangulation by strength”. “We ask (Rajnath Singh) to confirm that he is trying to close Greenpeace India and suppress our voice,” says Greenpeace India’s executive director Samir Aich. Rajnath Singh will do no such thing because India has figured out it’s far more effective and far less messy to shut someone down by playing by the book instead of planting limpet mines.

Ford Foundation falls into the grey area of between tolerance and dislike. It’s famously left of centre and the government does not like some of those it has funded but its largesse has extended to all kinds of institutions the government holds dear – like IITs. More importantly, it has powerful friends in high places. Even as the Modi-Obama bromance went into gush overdrive on the Time Magazine power player list, US Ambassador Richard Verma is expressing “concern” about the “challenges faced by NGOs operating in India.” State department spokesperson Marie Harf was even more forthright when she said Washington was “concerned” that placing Ford Foundation on the watch-list will limit critical debate in Indian society.

And then comes rumours about the Gates Foundation, the same Gates Foundations whose Bill and Melinda Gates have been awarded Padma Shris. A Reuters report said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was being investigated for discrepancies in financial transactions with the Public Health Foundation of India. But then right on cue that story has been denied on all sides. Gates has said it had not been informed of any investigation. “Reports in a section of media about Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation coming under the scanner of Home Ministry is not based on facts. There is no such action,” Home Ministry spokesperson KS Dhatwalia said.

Whether the rumours surfaced in the first place to prove that the government was being equitable and fair in scrutinizing all foundations or not, the alacrity with which they were denied is telling. Gates Foundation is large, influential and in some countries more important than the health ministries. “Depending on what side of the bed Gate gets out in the morning it can shift the terrain of global health,” Gregg Gonsalves, co-founder of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition tells the

New Internationalist

. But its greatest asset is it has managed to avoid labels of left or right and stuck doggedly to its vaccines and pharmaceutical solutions. And it has done it without too many moral blinkers. A

Los Angeles Times

investigation in 2007 found that it ironically invested in “companies that contribute to the human suffering in health, housing and social welfare that the foundation is trying to alleviate”. Gates did not deny it but did not change its investment policy in response either.

Microsoft has also strongly lobbied for the World Trade Organisation’s TRIPS agreement which would oblige member countries to defend patents for a minimum of 20 years after filing date. A country like India, with a huge amount of poor people, could benefit from loosening copyright laws that would allow more generic competition but those countries are so dependent on Gates money for public health projects they would be very foolhardy to want to butt heads with it. It’s a message lost on no one when essayist Andrew Lam notes that in Vietnam, more young people seem to idolize Bill Gates than they do Ho Chi Minh. When Gates visited young Vietnamese wearing “I {heart} Bill Gates” T-shirts lined the streets and cheered. “It’s kind of [creating] a post-UN world,” someone close to the Gates foundation tells The Guardian. “People have gotten interested in fast results.”

Public health can raise many contentious moral ethical even ideological questions. But the Gates Foundation prefers to focus on technical solutions that escape ideological labeling rather than getting into ethical debates.

Democracy building can be messy and subjective because one person’s dissent is another person’s anti-national activity. But vaccines are amoral and the government likes its NGOs that way.

Modi govt clarifies on Gates Foundation, says NGO is not under scanner

Government on Wednesday dismissed reports suggesting that the Home Ministry was looking into the funding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Bill Gates. AFPBill Gates. AFP

Bill Gates. AFP

“Reports in a section of media about Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation coming under the scanner of Home Ministry is not based on facts. There is no such action,” Home Ministry spokesperson KS Dhatwalia said.

The government’s reaction came after reports in a section of media suggested that the Home Ministry was looking into the Foundation’s role in funding of a prominent Indian health body following inputs received by it from intelligence agencies.

A report in the Ahmedabad Mirror said that the MHA had stepped in over an anonymous tipoff that “there is an alleged discrepancy in the amount the Gates Foundation has said it donated to the PHFI, and what the PHFI has said it received.”

The Economic Times quoted an unnamed MHA official as saying, “It is not a formal inquiry. It’s only a look into the affairs after certain information has come to our notice and we are in the process of checking it out.

As of now, the organisation says it has not received any official summons from the MHA with regard to an investigation.

Last year, both Bill and Melinda Gates were honoured with the Padma awards by the government.

The Foundation has been involved in a number of projects in India. It also helped the flood victims of Jammu and Kashmir last year.

Although the MHA officials have denied the reports, , the ministry’s recent track record with regard to NGOs will undoubtedly give cause for concern. Greenpeace India has come out and said that it may well have to shut down its India operations after the MHA froze access to its international and domestic fund.

Greenpeace executive director Samit Aich told Firstpost that “On 9 April, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) blocked our domestic accounts due to absurd technicalities, which we are challenging in the court. Over 68 percent of our funds come from more than 77,000 Indians. These funds have been frozen and our work to protect India’s environment and people is being forced to stop. We are in discussion with lawyers on our line of defence,”

Meanwhile, the Ford Foundation has been accused of funding a political party and profit making organisations “illegally” which could well result in the banning of the organisation.

With inputs from PTI

After Greenpeace, is Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation next on the MHA hit list?

After Greenpeace and Ford Foundation, is the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation set to be the next prominent NGO to fall afoul of the MHA?

Media reports today indicate that the organisation, which has been active in India for around ten years, is under preliminary investigation over a donation it made to the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

A report in the Ahmedabad Mirror said that the MHA had stepped in over an anonymous tipoff that “there is an alleged discrepancy in the amount the Gates Foundation has said it donated to the PHFI, and what the PHFI has said it received.”

The Economic Times quoted an unnamed MHA official as saying, “It is not a formal inquiry. It’s only a look into the affairs after certain information has come to our notice and we are in the process of checking it out,”

Image fro PIBImage fro PIB

Image fro PIBfp

The ET report added that the official had also insisted that the exercise was also different in intensity and scope from the ministry’s recent actions against Greenpeace India and the Ford Foundation.

As of now, the organisation says it has not received any official summons from the MHA with regard to an investigation.

Although MHA officials have been quick to downplay its investigation, the ministry’s recent track record with regard to NGOs will undoubtedly give cause for concern. Greenpeace India has come out and said that it may well have to shut down its India operations after the MHA froze access to its international and domestic funds.

Greenpeace executive director Samit Aich told Firstpost that “On 9 April, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) blocked our domestic accounts due to absurd technicalities, which we are challenging in the court. Over 68 percent of our funds come from more than 77,000 Indians. These funds have been frozen and our work to protect India’s environment and people is being forced to stop. We are in discussion with lawyers on our line of defence,”

Ford Foundation has been accused of funding a political party and profit making organisations “illegally” which could well result in the banning of the organisation.

Despite its recent track record however, the focus on the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation still comes as a surprise, given the good rapport it enjoys with the Indian government at both the Centre and state levels.

In fact, the organisation was awarded the Padma Bhushan award by the Modi government earlier this year. PM Narendra Modi has also spent a considerable amount of time with both Bill and Melinda Gates, and has often expressed a desire to work more closely with the foundation.

Bill Gates himself had high praise for the Indian Prime Minister, writing in his blog that “Prime Minister Modi has done more to raise the awareness of the need for toilets than any other leader since the country gained independence.”

The foundation has also managed to largely steer away from any international controversy, apart from coming under fire by some health experts in India, over trials for a vaccine that had been carried out in India, which is thought to be responsible for the death of five girls in Andhra Pradesh. However that incident, which occurred last year, has not seen any direct blame affixed to the organisation, and has since been dropped from discourse.

It is difficult therefore at this stage to say if there are any other factors that may have prompted the MHA course of action, apart from what has been written on the box itself.

One possible factor could be that the foundation’s stated objectives are at odds with the ambitions of the Modi government that itself has been focusing on a self sustaining ‘Swacch Bharat’ campaign. It could well be that the constant highlighting of discrepancies by a highly respected organisation could undermine the perception of the government’s ambitions in this regard. There are already a number of eloquent arguments in this regard, one of which is that philanthropy is the enemy of justice.

On the other hand, it could be a pressure tactic on the foundation to step up and do more for less.

Then again, the politics of development are complicated. International organisations that want to work in other countries need to have multiple conversations and negotiations with governments. Every action is as much a transaction as anything else.

The incident could also turn out to be a giant case of nothing. For all we know, the organisation on the radar could well be the PHFI.

As noted in the Mirror article, “The Delhi-based PHFI was launched by then prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 to train public health professionals. The people who developed the PHFI included former McKinsey chief and – and now convicted insider trader – Rajat Gupta, and former AIIMS cardiology department chief K Srinath Reddy.

For now, all we can do is watch and wait.

No money in the bank: Government crackdown may close down Greenpeace India

Greenpeace India, which is on the verge of closing down after the central government blocked its domestic accounts, is planning to appeal to the judiciary for relief. On Tuesday, the NGO told its employees that the threat of an imminent shutdown is looming large as it “has been left with cash reserves for salaries and office costs for just about a month”.

“On 9 April, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) blocked our domestic accounts due to absurd technicalities, which we are challenging in the court. Over 68 percent of our funds come from more than 77,000 Indians. These funds have been frozen and our work to protect India’s environment and people is being forced to stop. We are in discussion with lawyers on our line of defence,” Greenpeace India Executive Director Samit Aich told Firstpost.

Representational image.Representational image.

Representational image.

The organisation, however, is worried about the cost of the legal process and what to do next if it stretches beyond 1 June. It would run out of funds by then. The NGO has less than a month to make a representation to the ministry against the order.

Following allegations of violating Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 and “prejudicially” affecting the public as well as economic interests of the country in “violation of Section 12(4)(f)(iii) and Section 12(4)(f)(ii) of the FCRA 2010”, the MHA suspended Greenpeace India’s licence and bank accounts for six months on April 9. In a fresh notice, the MHA has asked it as to why its registration should not be cancelled permanently.

Greenpeace India asked the MHA to recognize the impact of its decision. “The Home Minister (Rajnath Singh) 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.

Expressing her concern, Priya Pillai, Greenpeace India campaigner whose overseas travel ban was overturned by the Delhi High Court in March, says it is not only the question of livelihood of 340 employees but also a matter of sudden death for campaigns which “represent the voice of the poor on issues of clean and affordable energy, environmental justice and sustainable development”.

“Why is the government attacking us? Is it for raising voice against pesticides, pollution and working to ensure people get clean energy? Is it irked because we campaigned against the Mahan Coal Mining Project in Madhya Pradesh’s Singrauli district?” she asked.

Around 5,00,000 trees spread over 1,000 hectares of land was to be chopped off in the mining project allocated to a joint venture of Essar power and Hindalco industries in 2006. After the NGO along with locals campaigned against the project, the Supreme Court cancelled the coal block allocation.

“The MHA has gone too far by blocking our domestic bank accounts, which are funded by individual Indian citizens. We have over 70 percent domestic funders. There is a clear message behind the action – you have no right to dissent and criticise. If Greenpeace India is first, who is next?” she further asked.

After the allegation of FCRA violation, a string of penalties was imposed by the MHA on Greenpeace India but all of them were overturned by the Delhi High Court, she said.

Government cancels licences of nearly 9,000 NGOs

In yet another crackdown on NGOs receiving foreign funds, government has cancelled licences of nearly 9,000 such entities for violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

In yet another crackdown on NGOs receiving foreign funds, government has cancelled licences of nearly 9,000 such entities for violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).In an order, the Home Ministry said that notices were issued to 10,343 NGOs for not filing annual returns for the year 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12.The notices were served on October 16, 2014 saying that the NGOs should file their annual returns within a month specifying amount of foreign funds received, sources of such funds, for which purpose it was received and in manner in which such foreign contribution was utilised, according to a Home Ministry notification. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Out of the 10,344 NGOs, only 229 replied.Read: Cancellation orderThere was no reply from the remaining NGOs leading to cancellation of their registration issued under FCRA, the notification issued yesterday said.Among the registration cancelled 8,975 NGOs include 510 NGOs against whom notices were sent but returned undelivered.Government earlier had suspended the FCRA licence issued to Greenpeace India and frozen their seven bank accounts for various alleged violation of laws.The government last week ordered that funds coming from the US-based Ford Foundation should not be released by any bank to any Indian NGOs without mandatory permission from the Home Ministry.

Ford Foundation and Modi sarkar’s paranoia: Are emergency days back?

The paranoia of foreign hands that began with the offloading of Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai and blocking funds to the NGO has now reached an organisation that is almost as old as Independent India and whose imprint is indelible on many national programmes and institutions.

On Thursday, when the Modi government put the Ford Foundation on a watch list primarily because it funded human rights activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO fighting for the rights of Gujarat riot-victims, and asked the Reserve Bank of India not to pass on foreign funds to the organisation without its clearance, it has sent out a strong message that it doesn’t trust anybody other than those who parrot its views.

The original author of this paranoia was nobody but former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was extremely wary of NGOs that she thought had been puppeteered by foreign agencies. In fact, Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA), the tool that controls the flow of overseas funds to NGOs in India, was established by her during emergency. In 1984, when it was further tightened, funding to 142 organisations were blocked. The Ministry of Home Affairs currently has several NGOs on its watch list and the “iconic” Ford Foundation is the latest.

Ford FoundationFord Foundation

Ford Foundation

It’s not the money that matters. In its report on its 50th anniversary in India in 2002, Ford Foundation said that it had spent $500 million for various projects in the country. That was really short change, but the impact was huge. What’s probably disconcerting for the present government are the causes Ford supports such as democratic governance, which include increasing political participation, civil society activism and transparency; human rights which includes the rights of minorities, marginalised communities, Dalits and adivasis; freedom of expression; sexuality, LGBT rights and women’s rights among others. The central themes of its programmes are rights, equality and transparency which are ideas that challenge authoritative governments.

Ford’s grant-making programmes, which include both organisations and individuals, therefore can be a problem for the government because if it supports the welfare of Dalits and adivasis, the Home Ministry might view it as support to Maoists (in fact, Nobel winner MSF was recently accused of supporting Maoists because it worked among tribal communities who are otherwise unreached by government systems). Similarly, if it supports minority rights, as perhaps they have done by funding Teesta’s NGO, it can be seen as being partial to Muslims and any support to freedom of expression may be interpreted as fostering internal trouble.

By targeting the Ford Foundation, the Modi government has also made a clear political statement that it doesn’t care for the legacy of the organisation while facing dissent. Ford is no ordinary NGO. It was Nehru’s favourite and had played an important role in his vision of India by co-authoring India’s agricultural revolution and family planning programme, capacity strengthening of the erstwhile Planning Commission, establishment of IIMs and institutions such as the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, IRMA in Anand and the Institute of Economic Growth (IEG) in Delhi. In fact, in the initial years, it worked with the government and had a team of nearly 100 overseas experts at its Lodhi Road office in Delhi. What’s more interesting is that bulk of the UN in India now operates from the Foundation’s building. Perhaps Ford was the face of overseas development assistance in India’s initial years after independence.

It was in the 1970s, the Foundation shifted its focus to civil society organisations and individuals. Many celebrated Indian NGOs such as SEWA and DISHA and public policy institutions such as
National Centre for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) and the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) owe its genesis to the Foundation.

The influence of Ford in public policy is incontestable and probably irreversible. Since it started as early as India’s independence and had the complete trust of Nehru, its ideas had been wired into India’s social and economic development processes. However, what’s less known is its influence on civil society action and politics. Many of India’s prominent civil society leaders, who later successfully dabbled in politics had been funded by Ford – Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia (through their NGO Kabeer) and Yogendra Yadav (through ICSSR of JNU). If one considers the Rockefeller-Ford umbrella, it has more interesting names such as Kiran Bedi and Anna Hazare. The Magsasay award, considered to be the Asian Nobel prize, had been established by Rockefeller Foundation and queerly several Ford grantees have been honoured by this award. They are all active in various spheres of civil society engagement, politics and public policy. In fact, Arvind Kejriwal is a success story of Ford’s grant making programme in India.

Interestingly, in its move against Ford, Modi government and some of his severe critics are on the same side – the Left, and public intellectuals such as Arundhati Roy. For both, Foundations such as Ford and Rockefeller represent the capitalist interests of America and even the CIA.

Modi government seems to be unsparing when it comes to handling dissent. It’s noteworthy that besides Teesta, Ford has also supported one of his fiercest critics, Mallika Sarabhai. Throttling funds is an easy option to suppress opposition as many autocratic governments have attempted time and again. In 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai highlighted three general principles to protect civil space. The ability to seek, receive and spend money is one of them.

Ironically, when Indira Gandhi clamped down on NGOs, what she targeted was Gandhian organisations because she thought they were out to destabilise her. In Modi’s regime, the targets seem to be human rights organisations. With increasing suspicion of civil society organisations and fund flows, Modi’s India can be proud that it’s in the august company of (Rajapakse’s) Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Hungary, Egypt, Sudan, Russia and Venezuela.

Ford Foundation on govt’s watch list, needs MHA nod for giving grants

Trouble is brewing for one of the foremost funding agencies in the world, Ford Foundation, as the Ministry of Home Affairs has placed it under the watch list in “national interest and security ” of the country. This means that all its funds coming into India will first have to be scrutinised and cleared by the home ministry.

“Among the violations noticed, it was found that the Ford Foundation had been involved in funding non-FCRA registered entities which amounts to serious violation of the FCRA 2010 law,” a home ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Economic Times. The Ford Foundation is on the watch list based on inputs received from security agencies, he added.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. AFPUnion Home Minister Rajnath Singh. AFP

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. AFP

However,  according to a NDTV report, the Ford Foundation had issued a statement saying, ” We have not been contacted directly by MHA and have no information about latest news reports.”

The action against Ford Foundation comes days after another foreign NGO – Greenpeace India – earned a negative report from the Intelligence Bureau. The IB reportedly advised the finance ministry to remove any income-tax exemption citing alleged financial irregularities.

Putting Ford Foundation on prior permission list, MHA has ordered that all the funds coming from Ford Foundation, US, for any agency or NGOs in country will first need to be cleared by the ministry. The action has been taken under section 46 of the FCRA,a report in The Economic Times said.

As per the new directives from the Home Ministry, RBI will notify all banks and their branches in India that any transaction executed by Ford Foundation through its bank accounts should have prior approval of the ministry. The Centre has already blocked around $5 million in grants in the last few months, The Economic Times report said.

On 15 April, the Gujarat government sought a probe into the role of activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO alleging that it misused funds received from a foreign donor (Ford Foundation) to create ‘communal disharmony’.

“We learnt that the funds which they received, especially from the (US-based) Ford Foundation, were actually used for disturbing the communal harmony and carrying out anti-national propaganda against India in foreign countries,” Gujarat Minister of State for Home Rajnikant Patel told PTI. “We have written a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking probe into the role of Setalvad’s NGO (Sabrang Trust) after we found out funds given to the NGO were misused.”

“During the investigation of Gulberg Society museum funds embezzlement case, these things came to light,” Patel said. The Ford Foundation had given more than $500,000 to Setalvad’s NGO, he said.

According to The Indian Express, the Gujarat government said in its letter to the Union Home Ministry, “It is revealed during the course of investigation (in the riot relief fund embezzlement case) that Ford Foundation, established with the stated goal of promoting communal harmony, democratic principles and social justice, has been indulging in covert activities of promoting interests that are completely contradictory to the said goals.”

The Gujarat government and Setalvad are already embroiled in legal battles.

Few days ago, Greenpeace India also faced the ire of the Centre, as the government froze the NGO’s bank accounts on the grounds that it was encouraging anti-development campaigns. The government also temporarily suspended the registration of Greenpeace India Society under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act 2010 (FCRA).

Rejecting that Greenpeace India was working to protect the environment, the home ministry felt to the contrary saying that it was “hurting our national interest”. Seven bank accounts of Greenpeace in IDBI Bank, ICICI Bank and Yes Bank were frozen with immediate effect and the NGO was told that it can appeal against the order in 30 days.

Home ministry puts Ford Foundation on watch list in ‘national interest’

Trouble is brewing for one of the foremost funding agencies in the world, Ford Foundation, as the Ministry of Home Affairs has placed it under the watch list in “national interest and security ” of the country.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. AFPUnion Home Minister Rajnath Singh. AFP

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. AFP

However, later in the evening today, according to a NDTV report, the Ford Foundation had issued a statement saying, ” We have not been contacted directly by MHA and have no information about latest news reports.”

The action against Ford Foundation comes days after another foreign NGO – Greenpeace India – earned a negative report from the Intelligence Bureau. The IB reportedly advised the finance ministry to remove any income-tax exemption citing alleged financial irregularities.

Putting Ford Foundation on prior permission list, MHA has ordered that all the funds coming from Ford Foundation, US, for any agency or NGOs in country will first need to be cleared by the ministry. The action has been taken under section 46 of the FCRA,a report in The Economic Times said.

As per the new directives from the Home Ministry, RBI will notify all banks and their branches in India that any transaction executed by Ford Foundation through its bank accounts should have prior approval of the ministry. The Centre has already blocked around $5 million in grants in the last few months, The Economic Times report said.

On 15 April, the Gujarat government sought a probe into the role of activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO alleging that it misused funds received from a foreign donor (Ford Foundation) to create ‘communal disharmony’.

“We learnt that the funds which they received, especially from the (US-based) Ford Foundation, were actually used for disturbing the communal harmony and carrying out anti-national propaganda against India in foreign countries,” Gujarat Minister of State for Home Rajnikant Patel told PTI. “We have written a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking probe into the role of Setalvad’s NGO (Sabrang Trust) after we found out funds given to the NGO were misused.”

“During the investigation of Gulberg Society museum funds embezzlement case, these things came to light,” Patel said. The Ford Foundation had given more than $500,000 to Setalvad’s NGO, he said.

According to The Indian Express, the Gujarat government said in its letter to the Union Home Ministry, “It is revealed during the course of investigation (in the riot relief fund embezzlement case) that Ford Foundation, established with the stated goal of promoting communal harmony, democratic principles and social justice, has been indulging in covert activities of promoting interests that are completely contradictory to the said goals.”

The Gujarat government and Setalvad are already embroiled in legal battles.

Few days ago, Greenpeace India also faced the ire of the Centre, as the government froze the NGO’s bank accounts on the grounds that it was encouraging anti-development campaigns. The government also temporarily suspended the registration of Greenpeace India Society under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act 2010 (FCRA).

Rejecting that Greenpeace India was working to protect the environment, the home ministry felt to the contrary saying that it was “hurting our national interest”. Seven bank accounts of Greenpeace in IDBI Bank, ICICI Bank and Yes Bank were frozen with immediate effect and the NGO was told that it can appeal against the order in 30 days.

Screw tightens on Greenpeace India as IB writes to revenue secy on financial irregularities

Greenpeace India is heading for trouble in all likelihood as the Intelligence Bureau has reportedly advised the finance ministry to remove any income-tax exemption citing alleged financial irregularities.

Volunteers of Greenpeace. AgenciesVolunteers of Greenpeace. Agencies

Volunteers of Greenpeace. Agencies

According to a report in The Economic Times, the IB already informed revenue secretary Shaktikanta Das about the alleged irregularities.

We are not surprised the government is using institutional power to orchestrate an attack on Greenpeace… This is yet another action that we will contest and assert our legitimate status as a non-profit charity involved in environmental protection,” Greenpeace India, executive director, Samit Aich told The Economic Times.

Few days ago, the government froze the NGO’s bank accounts on the grounds that it was encouraging anti-development campaigns. Reports indicated that the Ministry of Home Affairs had decided to freeze the accounts on the basis of an inspection report that claims the NGO was using funds to bail arrested activists, pay high salaries and keep foreign consultants to aid in carrying out protests.

The home ministry, which monitors donations from abroad to domestic NGOs, had noted activists had been arrested for violations of laws like the Indian Penal Code and other criminal laws, and said that Greenpeace had been funding legal costs in breach of law.

The home ministry had also rejected the NGO’s clarification that it was working democratically saying that its activists were doing nothing meant for the environment “while hurting our national interest”.

The seven bank accounts of Greenpeace in IDBI Bank, ICICI Bank and Yes Bank were frozen with immediate effect and the NGO was told that it can appeal against the order in 30 days.

Meanwhile, the Centre has also temporarily suspended the registration of Greenpeace India Society under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act 2010 (FCRA).

A Times of India report notes that the Ministry of Home Affairs had noted in an inspection report that the Indian arm of the NGO had been incurring rising legal expenditure since 2008, which included bail bonds for arrested activists, and said the funds were disbursed without the consent of the donor as required under a section of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

Will take home ministry to court over deregistration move: Greenpeace India

On Thursday, MHA had barred Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds with immediate effect and suspended its licence for six months and froze all its accounts, alleging it has “prejudicially” affected the country’s public and economic interests.
File Photo

Greenpeace India on Saturday issued a point by point rebuttal of charges made against it by the NDA Government and said it would not only challenge the order in courts but also continue to campaign fearlessly. The government had on Thursday announced it was “temporarily” suspending Greenpeace India’s registration under the foreign contributions law for “under-reporting” such funding and conducting transactions in such funds without informing the authorities as required by the law. Along with the 180-day suspension, the home ministry froze all seven bank accounts of the organisation and served it a show-cause notice seeking an explanation why its licence should not be cancelled.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> On Saturday Greenpeace said that “This (freezing of accounts) means that GP India’s permission to receive money from overseas is currently suspended. It does not mean that GP India itself has been shut down or will have to shut down. GP India gets nearly 70 percent of its income from domestic donations and will continue to operate on those funds even as it fights the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) suspension.”Greenpeace India “It is the government using strong arm tactics to clamp down on dissenting voices in civil society. We have been vindicated in our position more than once in the courts. In fact, the Delhi High Court held that the actions of the home ministry in the Priya Pillai case were arbitrary and the charges against Greenpeace India were misconceived,””We will not only challenge the Ministry of Home Affairs in courts, but also continue to campaign fearlessly on the issues we work on,” it said. Greenpeace claimed that some of its domestic accounts have been frozen as well. It also denied the allegation that it had sponsored a Channel 4 (Britain) journalist’s visit to the Mahan forests in Madhya Pradesh. “This is one of the many lies in the home ministry report. In a response to Greenpeace, Hugo Ward, director of the programme from Channel 4, denied the allegation,” the statement said. On high salaries being paid to certain senior employees, it said that “We believe that good talent should also be able to work on issues of environment and social justice, and we like to make this possible.” “However, we ensure that there is parity between the amount paid to the executive director and the lowest paid employee in the organisation.”

Legal costs, salaries and a drone: Why the govt froze Greenpeace India’s bank accounts

After attempting to block one of its activists from going abroad, the BJP-led NDA government went up against NGO Greenpeace India again by freezing its bank accounts and suspending its accounts on the grounds that it was encouraging anti-development campaigns. Reports now indicate that the Ministry of Home Affairs decided to freeze the accounts on the basis of an inspection report that claims the NGO was using funds to bail arrested activists, pay high salaries and keep foreign consultants to aid in carrying out protests.

A Times of India report notes that the Ministry of Home Affairs had noted in an inspection report that the Indian arm of the NGO had been incurring rising legal expenditure since 2008, which included bail bonds for arrested activists, and said the funds were disbursed without the consent of the donor as required under a section of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

AFP imageAFP image

AFP image

The ministry, which monitors donations from abroad to domestic NGOs, had noted activists had been arrested for violations of laws like the Indian Penal Code and other criminal laws, and said that Greenpeace had been funding legal costs in breach of law.

It also rejected the NGO’s clarification that it was working democratically saying that its activists were doing nothing meant for the environment “while hurting our national interest”, the report noted.

The Ministry also accused Greenpeace India of paying high salaries to top officials and consultants without consent of the parent organisation.

A DNA report quoted the home ministry’s dossier on the NGO finding Greenpeace India guilty of using funds to influence Indian government policies and inviting foreign activists to ‘train and equip’ Indian activists in protests.

The Ministry took note of the fact that one of its consultants, Pankaj Singh, had contested as an AAP candidate from Mahaan in Madhya Pradesh  during the Lok Sabha polls and after losing, was working for the NGO while also working for the party in Delhi. It also pointed out that the NGO had invited and paid for the travel of a UK-based channel to make a documentary on tribal displacement by the Mahaan coal project and a drone had been used for filming without permission from the defence ministry.

The Home Ministry on Thursday had suspended the registration of Greenpeace India under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and froze all seven bank accounts of the NGO, alleging that the organisation had violated the law.

The seven bank accounts of Greenpeace in IDBI Bank, ICICI Bank and Yes Bank have been frozen with immediate effect and the NGO has been told it can appeal against the order in 30 days.

In its order, the ministry of home affairs had listed the use of funds for legal expenditure, transferring funds to a subsidiary without government permission, spending over 50 percent of the funds received from abroad on administrative costs and shifting office from Chennai to Bengaluru without informing the government, among other things.

Greenpeace has promised to mount a legal challenge against the government’s order and has claimed the suspension order was merely a ‘smear’ by the government.

“This feels like a revealing moment, one that says much more about the MHA than it does about Greenpeace. We believe in the Indian legal system. A campaign is being waged against dissent, but we will not be cowed,” Greenpeace India Executive Director, Samit Aich said in a statement after receiving the suspension notice.

(With agency inputs)

Greenpeace India on air quality index: Worried over lack of action, implementation

Greenpeace India has welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative of launching the National Air Quality Index (NAQI) on Monday.

Greenpeace India has welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative of launching the National Air Quality Index (NAQI) on Monday.However, it said in a statement that while an AQI is a crucial step in informing the public about the quality of air, the initiative fails to talk about necessary actions that are to be in place on heavy pollution episodes.”We welcome the launch of the National Air Quality Index but given the scale of air pollution and the impact it has on the public in Delhi and many other cities across the country, we had expected the Government to address the issue with more rigor and responsibility,” it stated. “Our air-quality survey conducted inside schools across Delhi revealed that school-going children are consistently being exposed to unacceptable levels of pollution. Delhi is facing a public health emergency and an Air Quality Index needs to be matched with actionable plans on how to bring the pollution levels down, at the very least with a health advisory,” added the statement.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In Beijing, the purpose of an AQI is not merely to say how poor the quality of air is, but to ensure that immediate action is taken to minimise the health impacts on the public. This is merely band aid on a wound that needs stitches, the bleeding is going to continue,” Aishwarya Madineni, Greenpeace campaigner, said.

Mahan coal block not to be auctioned: Coal Ministry

New Delhi: Coal Ministry has confirmed in an RTI reply that the Mahan coal block in Madhya Pradesh will not be auctioned, pursuant to the Environment Ministry’s recommendation that it be kept off limits from mining, Greenpeace India on Friday claimed.

The move, it said in a statment, comes as another “blow” to Essar Energy, which had hoped to mine the forest to supply coal for its nearby power plant.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

“After being termed anti-national by sections of this government, it is refreshing to see them accepting what Greenpeace and Mahan Sangharsh Samiti have been saying for years – this is a fabulous forest, home to endangered species and crucial to the livelihoods of thousands, and that is why it needs protection,” said Priya Pillai, Greenpeace Senior Campaigner, who was recently offloaded from a flight to London.

Greenpeace in its statement said the Environment Ministry has recommended that only three blocks, Mahan, Marki Mangli II and Namchik-Namphuk be considered off limits for mining out of the 74 blocks in Schedule II and III of the coal ordinance.

“Government documents with Greenpeace show that other forests in the Mahan region have also been identified as very high quality forest,” the statement said.

“Even as we celebrate this win for thousands of Indians, we are painfully aware that Mahan is just one of hundreds of coal mines planned in forested India.

“The MoEF’s current criteria for determining forests closed to mining is clearly inadequate, only serving the interests of mining corporations, ignoring the needs of the communities and wildlife that depend on our forests,” Pillai said in the statement.

PTI

HC calls govt decision to offload Priya Pillai from plane ‘illegal’

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday set aside Government’s decision to offload Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from an aircraft to London two months ago, saying it was “illegal” and that the right to criticise cannot be “muzzled” by the state.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher said Pillai has a fundamental right to travel abroad and also she has every right to hold a different opinion on development policies and this cannot be the sole ground to restrict her movement.

Priya Pillai. Image courtesy: GreenpeacePriya Pillai. Image courtesy: Greenpeace

Priya Pillai. Image courtesy: Greenpeace

Besides quashing the look out circular (LOC) issued against her by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the court also asked the government to remove her name from the database of individuals barred from leaving the country.

Though the court declined to order inquiry against the officials involved in her offloading, it directed Bureau of Immigration to expunge the endorsements made on the activist’s passport while offloading her from an aircraft on 11 January while she was going to London to make a presentation before British MPs on an alleged human rights violation at Mahan in Madhya Pradesh.

“…The core aspect of democracy is the freedom of an individual to be able to freely operate, within the framework of the laws enacted by Parliament. The individual should be able to order his or her life any way he or she pleases, as long as it is not violative of the law or constitutes an infraction of any order or direction of a duly constituted court, tribunal or any statutory authority for that matter.

“Amongst the varied freedoms conferred on an individual (the citizen), is the right of free speech and expression, which necessarily includes the right to criticise and dissent. Criticism, by an individual, may not be palatable, even so, it cannot be muzzled,” the court said.

“There was no basis for the government to issue an LOC against her. The decision taken to detain her at the airport on 11 January, 2015 in my opinion, was illegal being violative of the Pillai’s right under Article 21 and 19(1)(a) of the Constitution,” the court added.

The judge, meanwhile, has not granted any compensation to Pillai saying “it may not be appropriate to embark upon an exercise of ascertaining damages claimed by Pillai, while exercising writ jurisdiction”.

“It would, however, be open to Pillai to take recourse to an appropriate civil remedy to agitate her rights in that behalf. Needless to say, if such an action is taken recourse to, the respondents will have a right to defend the same, in accordance with law,” the judge said.

Justifying its decision, the government had said that her visit to London was a serious threat to the nation and the speech she was going to make there is anti-national and had “potential for mischief” against India’s economic interests.

The court, however, turned down the government’s argument and said Pillai’s right to travel abroad and interact with the relevant stake holders (British Parliamentarians), to persuade them, to have entities incorporated in their country, to fall in line, with the developmental ethos, which is close to her ideology and belief, cannot be impeded only because it is not in sync with policy perspective of the executive”.

“The sense that I get, upon perusal of the stand taken by the respondents (government) in their pleadings, is that, they do not approve of the view expressed by civil right activists, in forums outside the country, which tend to portray, according to them, an inaccurate picture of the state of human rights in the country.

“In other words, they are concerned by the fact that such portrayal generates an atmosphere, which retards investment of foreign funds, in vital infrastructural projects. Whether this concern is valid or not, in my opinion, is not the issue. The reason for the same is, that, developmental activities, not now, but for ages have always had a counter point,” the judge said.

The stand of government that they had prevented Pillai from leaving the country as she intended to testify before British Parliamentarians, which in turn, would have negatively impacted the image of India – in my view, is a stand, which is completely untenable,” it added.

The court in its 39-page order said that the advancement in knowledge base, and the ability of common citizen to access information vis-a-vis public projects, has only made dissent more strident and vigorous.

“Whether one model of development has to be rolled out as against the other, is an on-going debate. This debate impinges upon all kinds of developmental projects, which includes projects, such as, mining, setting up of nuclear plants, construction of roads through forests,…– none of which have stopped if, the executive of the day, is convinced of their need and necessity,” it said.

It also held that “travelling abroad and espousing views, without any criminal intent of the kind adverted to above, cannot, in my opinion, put Pillai in the category of an anti-national element”.

The court observed that Pillai believes that the rights of tribal communities residing in Mahan would get impacted if, a coal mine, were to be opened in that area.

“This, is a view, which the executive may or may not agree with. That by itself, cannot be a reason to prevent Pillai from exercising her fundamental right to travel abroad and, thereby, in effect, disable her from expressing her views on the subject.

“In today’s time and space, because of advent of technology, and especially, the internet, the universe has been reduced to a global-village. What occurs in a remote part of any country, gets immediately known the world over, either via television or through social media,” the court said.

It further said that the argument of the respondents that they would not permit Pillai to travel out of India, for the stated purpose, but otherwise, would place no impediment in her travel, is clearly flawed.

“Pillai, need not travel abroad to express her view point. She can transmit her views via technological devices available to her, without having to move out of the country. But that is not the point in issue.”

The judge also said that though there is a case lodged against her, in which she has obtained bail from Mumbai court, there is no condition imposed on her movement.

PTI

HC upholds Greenpeace activist Priya PIllai’s right to travel, sets aside look out notice

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today set aside the look out circular issued against Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai who was offloaded from a flight to London two months back, saying her fundamental right to travel cannot be curtailed.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher, while upholding her right to travel abroad, also said Pillai has every right to hold a different opinion on development policies and this cannot be the sole ground to restrict her movement.

The court set aside the look out circular (LOC) issued by Intelligence Bureau (IB) and asked the government to remove her name from the database containing names of individuals barred from leaving the country.

Pillai had approached the High Court over being stopped from travelling. Image courtesy: GreenpeacePillai had approached the High Court over being stopped from travelling. Image courtesy: Greenpeace

Pillai had approached the High Court over being stopped from travelling. Image courtesy: Greenpeace

It also directed Bureau of Immigration to expunge the endorsements made on the activist’s passport while offloading her from a flight on 11 January while she was going to London to make a presentation before British MPs on alleged human rights violation at Mahan in Madhya Pradesh.

The court, however, declined to order inquiry against officials involved in her offloading.

The judge, meanwhile, has not granted any compensation to Pillai saying she can ask for the same before an appropriate bench.

The high court had on 19 February, reserved its judgement on Pillai’s plea claiming that her right to freedom of speech and expression was being curtailed by an unlawful order of the executive.

Justifying the government’s decision, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain had said that her visit to London was a serious threat to the nation and the speech she was going to make there is against the nation and had “potential for mischief” against India’s economic interests.

He had said that the travel tickets financed in her name were from an organisation which is on the watch list of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).”

The ASG had claimed that diplomatic relations were “fluctuating” and existing good relations were no guarantee against “something undesirable” later.

The high court had earlier expressed concern over Pillai not being allowed to visit London, saying government has to draw a line between “nationalism and jingoism”. The court had said the government decision was not appropriate as there are many people, who indulged in various anti-national activities, but were travelling abroad.

Pillai, who was stopped from flying to London on the basis of the circular had moved the high court on 27 January.

Pillai, in her plea, had sought permission to travel to London to make a presentation before British MPs on alleged human rights violation at Mahan, which she claimed was the reason for her to be offloaded from the flight at Delhi’s IGI Airport.

The activist had also demanded a compensation of Rs one crore and had contended that disallowing her from travelling to London was “completely unlawful and malafide and without any authority of law” and that the LOC should be quashed.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Pillai, had said that an enquiry should be ordered into the “illegal, wrongful and malafide conduct” of the officials and sought that the wrongdoers be punished if found guilty.

PTI

Air pollution: Centre to set up unified air quality monitoring system in Delhi

New Delhi: Amid concerns over Delhi’s growing pollution levels, the government on Wednesday said it has decided to put in place a unified air quality monitoring system to ensure that “authenticated” information is available to people even as green bodies asked the government to make their intent behind “reevaluating” the pollution data public.

The Union Environment Ministry said the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and IMD – the three agencies monitoring air quality in Delhi -have also developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) of data “validation, analysis and dissemination” and gave comprehensive details as to how it would work.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Shortly after the move, Greenpeace India said that the the government needs to make their intent behind reevaluating the pollution data public.

“MoEF (Environment Ministry) together with MoES (Ministry of Earth Sciences) and DPCC have decided to put in position a unified system of air quality monitoring in Delhi to ensure authenticated air quality information to the public at large, given that three agencies – CPCB, DPCC and IMD monitor air quality,” an official statement said.

This comes after a joint meeting, chaired by Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, was held today which was attended by officials of Environment Ministry, CPCB, DPCC and IMD.

“The government needs to make their intent behind reevaluating the pollution data public. If at all they are trying to fudge data, it will be a defeating purpose for themselves as there will be questions raised by environment monitoring groups who are simultaneously tracking pollution levels,” Aishwarya Madineni, Campaigner, Greenpeace India told Firstpost.

She added that India is still in denial about the alarming pollution levels in the national capital.

“Our government should take the learning from China in terms of how the city is already moving ahead. It’s pollution levels have reduced, they have put in place a 5-year plan, monitoring systems and an alarm system (to warn of high pollution levels),” she had told Firstpost.

Meanwhile elaborating about the process, the ministry today said that data from monitoring stations of CPCB, DPCC and IMD will undergo basic data quality checks first at the station level using in-built software. It would then be transmitted to CPCB “every hour” through an automated system.

“Running average concentration values (01 and 08 hourly for CO, 08 hourly for O3 and 24 hourly for PM2.5, PM10, NO2, and others as per National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

“…for all the monitoring stations will be calculated through an automated system at CPCB. These running average values would be disseminated continuously on hourly basis,” the official statement said, adding that existing continuous data reporting would continue.

All this comes after media reports suggested that the DPCC was allegedly rapped for releasing raw air quality data. The Union Environment Ministry also decided that DPCC’s data would be validated by CPCB before it is released online, the reports suggested.

Serious concern was raised today in Rajya Sabha over the rising air pollution in Delhi, with a Congress member saying that many countries have reduced the tenure of their diplomats here due to the problem.

The Environment Ministry said that in addition, CPCB would further analyse the data from all the monitoring stations on daily basis.

“Analysis would include average and range of air pollution levels, exceedance from respective notified standards and overall city air quality for various parameters along with possible explanations. Such analysed data would be available for the previous day,” the Ministry said.

It said that DPCC will disseminate the authenticated air quality information. The Ministry had yesterday said that a joint team drawing members from each organisation will be formed to evolve SoP while the unified system is expected to be positioned in maximum two weeks’ time.

The green NGO has collated data from various studies to give perspective about Beijing and Delhi in terms of parameters of pollution and mitigation plans.

It had said that Delhi’s air pollution is worst than that of the Chinese capital and has called for stringent targets for industrial emissions and an action plan to protect citizens from air pollution.

PTI

Why can’t India learn from China? Greenpeace on govt move to ‘evaluate’ pollution data

Greenpeace has asked the government of India to stop being in denial over the fact that its national capital has a severe pollution problem, and asked it to take a lesson from China.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“India is still in denial about the alarming pollution levels in the national capital. Our government still want to compare itself to Beijing but the Chinese city is already moving ahead. It’s pollution levels have reduced, they have put in place a 5-year plan, monitoring systems and an alarm system (to warn of high pollution levels),” Greenpeace campaigner Aishwarya Madineni told Firstpost.

Madineni was referring to a surprise move by the environment ministry to ‘validate’ real-time data before it is put out publicly.

Until now, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, which runs a real-time air pollution monitoring system, released ‘raw’ or ‘unedited’ air quality data on its website, the Times of India reports, but last week, the Prakash Javadekar-led ministry pulled up DPCC officials and ordered that the data be validated by the Central Pollution Control Board before it goes up on their website.

While the website never really provided 24×7 real time data on pollution, when Firstpost checked at 5 pm, the DPCC website had pollution levels as of 4.10 pm – a delay of almost one hour.

“The data has been stopped because there is too much scrutiny of what’s being released online. We are pulled up for it,” an official told TOI, adding that “the data may not even be available anymore as it will soon have to be validated before release.”

air-pollutionair-pollution

The Indian government has been consistently facing international pressure from environment NGOs and watchdogs over the rising pollution levels in the national capital.  Facing criticism and unwilling to accept that the national capital has the world’s most polluted air, the government, in October last year, decided to come up with a National Air Quality Index seeking to create a comprehensive index of measuring air pollution levels.

According to this report in The Hindu, the government had set up an expert committee so that India could evolve its own standards for pollution index in cities, this, despite India already having a CPCB and state pollution control boards.

Speaking to The Hindu, Susheel Kumar, the then chairperson of CPCB, said, “We wanted to come out with our own Index; it is a technical AQI and not a government supported one,” he said, adding that the state governments have agreed to adopt the index which will have six categories – good, satisfactory, moderately polluted, poor, very poor and severe.

Madineni said the government needed to make their intent behind reevaluating the pollution data public. “If at all they are trying to fudge data, it will be a defeating purpose for themselves as there will be questions raised by international NGOs and environment monitoring groups who are simultaneously tracking pollution levels,” she told Firstpost.

Moreover, in an air-quality monitoring survey carried out by Greenpeace inside five schools across Delhi, it was found that the PM2.5 levels were 4 times the Indian safety limits and 10 times that of the World Health Organisation’s. “This has reinstated the fact that air pollution levels inside Delhi’s schools are alarmingly high and that children are consistently breathing bad air,” Madineni said.

In a meeting with Greenpeace campaigners on Tuesday, Delhi Health Minister Shri Satyendra Jain accepted the proposal and ensured that he will look into the aspect of health advisories for schools in Delhi, the environment NGO said.

The 2014 report of the Ambient Air Pollution (AAP) database contained results of outdoor air pollution monitoring from almost 1600 cities in 91 countries.

Delhi had the highest concentration of PM2.5 — particulate matters less than 2.5 microns– form of air pollution, which is considered most serious and can cause respiratory diseases and other health problems. In Delhi, the situation was so bad, that its air had PM2.5 concentrations of 153 micrograms and PM10 concentrations of 286 micrograms–much more than the permissible limits, the WHO report said.

In comparison, Beijing, which was once considered one of the most polluted cities, had PM2.5 concentration of 56 micrograms and PM10 concentration of 121 microgrammes.

But the government was soon to refute the UN-backed report. “Delhi is not the dirtiest… certainly it is not that dangerous as projected,” AB Akolkar, a member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board of India told Reuters, suggesting that the health agency had overestimated levels.

The pressure got worse for India after the United States government decided to take an active role in monitoring air pollution levels in the country.

Earlier this year, during President Barack Obama’s visit to India, the two nations were discussing the launching of the Environmental Protection Agency programme – AirNow International – as early as March.

EPA’s Administrator Gina McCarthy confirmed the development at a treaty signing event with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“Five years ago we launched AirNow-International in Shanghai, and we made further studies in other cities around the world, and a few weeks ago we announced that AirNow-International is going to be in India. We came out of the President’s recent trip knowing that this was an issue of importance to the President, but also to India as well, and our experts will be taking off in a few weeks to get this program started,” she said.

Furthermore, the United States already monitors air pollution levels at its embassies. The data of the New Delhi office as well as those in other Indian cities can be found here.

What is PM 2.5?

PM or particulate matter refers to the microscopic solid or liquid matter that is suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. PM includes dust, dirt, soot, smoke, as well as liquid droplets. Particles which are less than 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) pose a health concern because they can be inhaled into and accumulate in the respiratory system. Air pollution is monitored for PM10 and PM2.5,– particles smaller than 10 or 2.5 microns.

aqiaqiThe Central Pollution Control Board reported Delhi’s average PM 2.5 level in 2013 as 153 ng/m3 (nanogram/cubic metre), based on hourly measurements at six different stations which is 15 times the WHO guideline and 3.8 times the national standard while Delhi’s average is also 80 percent higher than the average in Beijing.

The WHO, in its 2014 report further revealed that 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India. The report further said that in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure.

Priya Pillai writes: ‘Speaking out is the most patriotic thing I have ever done’

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Delhi HC questions govt on offloading of Greenpeace activist

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Nitish Katara murder: Accused Vikas Yadav, two others get life term

The Delhi High Court today commuted the death sentences of all three convicted for the 2002 murder of Nitish Katara and while it upheld their conviction, it awarded a prison term of 25 years without remission to the son of Uttar Pradesh politician DP Yadav’s son, Vikas. The two other convicts, Vishal Yadav and Sukhdev Pehelwan, were also sentenced to 25 and 20 years in jail respectively.

The high court verdict came following the appeal by the trio challenging the death sentence awarded to them by the trial court. The high court also instructed  Vikas and Vishal to pay a Rs 50 lakh each.

The deceased Nitish Katara.

Speaking about the high court’s verdict, Katara’s mother, Neelam told reporters,”Vikas and Vishal will be given 25 years plus five years during where there won’t be remission.”

Although Neelam expressed happiness over the increased duration of jail for the trio, she was unhappy that the high court turned down the prosecution’s plea for capital punishment.

“We will petition the Supreme Court, I think in such cases there should be capital punishment. To the extent that the punishment has been enhanced from a simple life sentence I am happy. But I am disappointed that capital punishment was turned down,” she said.

Vikas, his cousin Vishal Yadav and Sukhdev Pehelwan are already serving life terms for abducting and killing Katara, a business executive and the son of an IAS officer, on the night of 16-17 February 2002. They committed the murder because they were opposed the victim’s relationship with Bharti, DP Yadav’s daughter.

A special bench of justices Gita Mittal and and JR Midha delivered the verdict on the petitions in the 13-year-old case after concluding hearing arguments on sentence against the convicts on 8 December last year.

The court has been hearing arguments on the punishment to be awarded to the three convicts since April 2014.

The convicts have sought leniency in sentencing as well as exemption from death sentence saying they can reform and their actions were not so brutal or gruesome that it deserved capital punishment.

also see

Nitish Katara murder case: Delhi HC likely to pronounce verdict on sentence on Friday

Delhi HC to hear PIL on Sunanda Pushkar murder case probe on 4 February

‘Offloading’ of Greenpeace activist from aircraft: Delhi HC seeks Centre’s reply

On the other hand, the victim’s mother, Neelam and the Delhi Police had demanded death for the trio, terming their offence to be the rarest of rare. If not capital punishment, the convicts be handed down an enhanced life sentence, they had contended.

The high court had on 2 April 2014, upheld the verdict of the lower court in the case by describing the offence as “honour killing” stemming from a “deeply-entrenched belief” in caste system.

Katara was abducted and killed by Vikas, Vishal and Sukhdev as they did not approve of the victim’s affair with Bharti because they belonged to different castes, the court had said.

The high court had dismissed the appeals of the convicts and kept pending two separate pleas of the state and Neelam seeking death penalty for them.

High pollution levels in Delhi may have cost Obama 6 hours of his life

India geared up and how for US President Barack Obama’s arrival in New Delhi with no-fly zones and seven tier security rings. The city turned into a fortress with office buildings around Rajpath being shut because he would attend the Republic Day Parade.

All this was done to protect the world’s most powerful man from life threatening attacks, but if this Bloomberg report is anything to go by, Obama may have lost 6 hours from his life expectancy. That too because of the abysmal pollution levels in the national capital.

Barack Obama. Reuters

The report says, “During Obama’s three-day visit, PM2.5 levels in Delhi have averaged between 76 to 84 micrograms per cubic meter, according to data collected by India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences.”

Right before Obama landed in the city, Greenpeace India, citing the findings of its real-time check on the pollution levels in the capital, too had warned that Obama was likely to breathe “unhealthy and hazardous” air during his stay in Delhi.

Ahead of Obama’s three-day state visit the NGO set out with an air-monitoring device called PDR 1500, to track pollution levels in six locations the president was expected to pass through.

This device recorded particulate matter 2.5 levels at various locations, including Raj Ghat and Hyderabad House, that revealed unhealthy and hazardous quality of air, said a Greenpeace release.

Meanwhile Bloomberg quoted David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, as saying that the PM2.5 levels recorded during Obama’s visit could translate roughly into an estimated loss of 2 hours a day in life expectancy.

In December 2014 environment experts had demanded immediate pollution control action after researchers at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) monitored people’s level of exposure to pollution in the city and found the results to be posing a “serious risk to public health”.

Delhiites are “not safe” from polluted air even at home and workplaces, they had said.

With IANS inputs

Delhi High Court issues notice to Centre, IB on Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai’s plea

The court notices were issued on the activist’s plea seeking direction to the concerned authorities to expunge the endorsements made while offloading her from the flight by immigration officials on January 11, while she was on the way to London to make a presentation before British MPs, regarding alleged human rights violation at Mahan in Madhya Pradesh.

Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai.

The Delhi High Court on Wednesdaysought response of the Centre on the plea of Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai against her “offloading” from a flight to London at the Delhi airport.Justice Rajiv Shakdher also issued notice to IB and Immigration Department seeking their responses on Pillai’s plea terming the “offloading” act as illegal and a violation of her basic rights to personal liberty and freedom of speech.The court notices were issued on the activist’s plea seeking direction to the concerned authorities to expunge the endorsements made while offloading her from the flight by immigration officials on January 11, while she was on the way to London to make a presentation before British MPs, regarding alleged human rights violation at Mahan in Madhya Pradesh.Also read: Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai offloaded at Delhi Airport, denied permission to leave IndiaThe court, meanwhile, has also directed the counsel appearing for the respondents to take instructions on Pillai’s interim application seeking permission to travel to United Kingdom on February 11, for the same cause.”Issue notice to the respondents (Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), IB and Immigration Department). Reply be filed in one week. Rejoinder by the petitioner (Priya Pillai) before February 6,” the court said, adding that at least the counsel for government should get instruction on the petitioner’s trip, scheduled for February 11.
Also read: IB cites security reasons for off-loading Greenpeace activistSenior advocate Indira Jaising appearing for the activist also requested the court to quash the lookout circular issued against her by MHA.Jaising contended that debarring the activist from going abroad is a deliberate attempt to malign her reputation and an illegal act by the government agencies on the basis of a flawed circular issued by MHA.She submitted that the circular had no legal basis as Pillai has neither been convicted in any case, nor has she ever evaded arrest or trial.