A report titled ‘Impact of NGOs on Development’ on the threat posed by ‘foreign funded NGOs’ to India’s national economic security and the ‘Gujarat model of development’, supposedly submitted by the IB to PM Modi, was ‘leaked’ to the Indian media. And a storm broke over the bogey of ‘foreign-funded’ activists supposedly paid to derail India’s development engine. The IB ‘report’ was supposedly begun at the behest of the UPA Government, and has now been submitted at the beginning of Modi’s tenure, coinciding with protests against the raising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
Now, one might ask, are the UPA and NDA, Congress and BJP, not faithful advocates of globalisation? They advocate FDI and foreign funding in every aspect of India’s economy – so how come they suddenly see ‘foreign funding’ as dangerous?
Reading the so-called ‘IB Report’, the matter becomes clear. The report has nothing to do with security. It is no ‘investigative report’, and has no ‘facts’ that are not readily available publicly. The ‘Report’ seems to have been prepared for the express purpose of being ‘leaked’ – to create a bogey of ‘foreign-funded activists’ in the public mind. The Report is so shoddy that portions of it are actually copy-pasted from a published 2006 speech made by Modi in Gujarat! And in fact, the ‘IB Report’ is very much a political narrative, peddling political opinion, rather than an investigative exercise.
Ironically, if one reads the ‘IB Report’, one cannot escape the conclusion that the IB equates ‘development’ with the projects of foreign MNCs in India. Mining MNCs Vedanta, POSCO, the Russian-funded nuclear reactor in Koodankulam, the French company Areva’s nuclear reactor in Jaitapur, MNCs like Monsanto that have an interest in GM foods: these are some of the entities whose interests the IB equates with India’s development. And likewise, it brands critics of these foreign corporations and foreign-funded projects as ‘threats to national economic security and development’! In a strange inverted logic, critics of foreign corporations that plunder land, resources, livelihood and environment in India, are branded as threats to ‘national security’.
Actually, the funded NGOs named in the report are only an excuse. The real aim is to throw dust in our eyes, to brand people’s movements against corporate loot and corporate agendas, as anti-national and anti-development. Manmohan Singh himself tried to do this when he suggested that the Koodankulam movement was foreign-funded; Modi is carrying forward that legacy.
Who are ‘Foreign-Funded’ Threats to India’s Interests?
In March this year, the Delhi High Court held that the BJP and Congress had illegally accepted funds from a foreign source – the British mining MNC Vedanta and its subsidiaries. The Court asked the Centre and the Election Commission to take appropriate action against the Congress and the BJP for allegedly accepting foreign funds in violation of the FCRA.
The Congress, BJP, and the Home Ministry, amazingly, had argued in Court that they were under the impression that Vedanta was an Indian company! The thing is, if the adivasis of Niyamgiri have known all along that Vedanta is a British mining MNC, is it plausible that Congress and BJP did not?!
Now, if Congress and BJP violated FCRA, why does the IB not recommend that their funding be brought under closer scrutiny and regulation? Why go after NGOs that have not violated the law? Is it not possible or likely that Congress and BJP, taking funding from Vedanta and other similar companies, is endangering India’s interests, by allowing the MNCs’ interests to dictate India’s development path?
Do we accuse foreign MNCs and Indian corporations of influencing India’s parties and governments and subverting India’s development agenda, because we are biased by our Left ideology? Not so. In fact, there is plenty of hard evidence of blatant violation of the law and regulatory mechanisms by these corporations.
After all, India’s laws and regulatory mechanisms are supposed to protect the safety, health, and interests of Indian citizens and environment. What happens when the corporations infiltrate the regulatory bodies?
Examples of this abound. P Chidambaram, who used to be a Vedanta director and the lawyer for a range of mining corporations, later became Finance Minister and then Home Minister. Is it any wonder that he would formulate economic policies and security policies to suit the companies who had, till recently, paid his salary?
And our present Finance Minister is no exception. The Wikileaks cables had revealed Arun Jaitley assuring the US Embassy representative that the BJP’s opposition to FDI in retail was mere political posturing, and that in fact, he was all for FDI in retail. The US Embassy representative commented in the cable that Jaitley “clearly values his personal and commercial connections to the US (several US corporates are legal clients).” So, will India’s Finance Minister Jaitley serve the interests of India’s people – or his US corporate clients?!
Recently there was an attempt to introduce genetically modified Bt Brinjal for consumption in India. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) set up by the Government recommended clearance for Bt Brinjal, claiming that it would pose no health or environmental hazards. But environmental activists found that GEAC itself was hardly impartial, since it had representatives of the very same MNCs who stood to gain from Bt Brinjal!
The Co-Chairman of the GEAC, C D Mayee, was on the Board of Directors of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) which is funded by Monsanto, the very same company that has the patent for Bt Brinjal and had applied for approval! It may be recalled that Mayee was also the Co-Chair of the GEAC that approved Bt Cotton in 2001 and four years later he was appointed to the Board of the ISAAA.
Another instance is that of the Food Safety Authority panels set up by the Government to look into the presence of poisonous additives like phosphoric acid, ethylene, and other dangerous chemicals in soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi etc. Activists who approached the Supreme Court for action against the soft drink companies found that the FSA panels were packed with people with close links with Pepsi, Coca Cola, Nestle – the very same companies which the panels were supposed to regulate! The Supreme Court observed, “the panel does not consist of independent persons; it is contrary to the (Food Security) Act. What kind of recommendations do you expect from the panel?”
Foreign Hand and India’s National Security Establishment
Nivedita Menon, (When Are Foreign Funds Okay? A Guide for the Perplexed, Kafila, June 13, 2014) writes, “Omidyar Network is the philanthropy arm of eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Since 2009, Omidyar Network has made more investments in India than in any other country in its portfolio. These investments were largely thanks to Jayant Sinha (the son of BJP stalwart Yashwant Sinha), who was hired in October 2009 to establish and run Omidyar Network India Advisors. .... Shortly after Sinha left Omidyar Network to help Modi win, Modi gave a speech calling for opening India’s e-commerce market to foreign companies such as Ebay, whose largest shareholder is Pierre Omidyar.”
Does Omidyar fund NGOs? Yes, it does, but only NGOs that work closely with the US establishment. Menon quotes from an article that observes that Omidyar funds NGOs that work “to bring down regimes considered insufficiently open to the strip-mining of national wealth and resources by Western elites.”
However, Omidyar did more than fund Modi’s election campaign and influence his policy on e-commerce. Jayant Sinha, the Omidyar man who is now a Jharkhand MP from BJP, has also served as director in the BJP’s think tank on security and economic policy, the India Foundation. This is the same think tank from which Modi drew the new head of the India Foundation, former intelligence chief Ajit Doval, as his National Security Advisor.
So, India’s National Security Advisor is drawn from a BJP Think Tank that is, moreover, funded by a highly dubious foreign corporation known for pursuing US interests. Is this not a dangerous double conflict of interest? Does it not explain where the agenda of the ‘IB Report’ comes from?
We can see the RSS every day, openly influencing the political behaviour of the Modi Government. Should there not be a scrutiny of the extent and nature of funding received by the RSS?
Reports by Awaaz, South Asia Watch Limited, in Britain and a report on the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) in the US, have showed how various ‘fronts’ of the RSS collect funds in the name of charity and humanitarian relief – only to funnel those funds to the extremist political organisations of the RSS family. Most of those donors would not contribute funds if they knew that the funds were ending up with the RSS that is openly inspired by the politics of Hitler and Mussolini. The RSS, then, is India’s biggest foreign-funded NGO – that moreover collects funds on false premises to fund sectarian political violence in India.
CPI(ML) has always called for closer scrutiny of and complete transparency in all corporate and foreign funded organisations – including political parties and NGOs.
Activists and writers like Samarendra Das have in fact recorded that some funded NGOs actually work to promote corporate interests and undermine people’s movements like the struggle against Vedanta in Niyamgiri.
But what the IB is doing has nothing whatsoever to do with ushering in transparency or accountability in funding. In fact, it is working on the agenda of the foreign- and corporate-funded political parties, to witch-hunt all activists and movements who question and resist the plunder of resources, loot of livelihoods, devastation of environment, and endangering of citizens’ safety and health by Indian and foreign corporations.