12 Foreign Nationals behind stir against power (Sunday Guardian)
MADHAV NALAPAT New Delhi | 28th Jun 2014
enior officials reporting to the Ministry of Home Affairs have identified 12 individuals who are considered the prime movers in the ongoing all-India campaign by a few NGOs to "slow down and finally stop" thermal power generation in India. This is according to those investigating the activities of the dozen principal foreign activists (six from the US, four from the UK and one each from Canada and New Zealand) during their frequent visits to this country. According to a senior official, the game plan is to "force the closure of existing thermal power plants, while ensuring through agitations and litigation that new plants do not get set up". Along with this, they have masterminded a drive against coal mining in India, despite the fact that in their countries of origin, mining (including coal) is among the most major of industries.
Some of the NGOs associated with the agitation against both coal mining as well as thermal and nuclear power plants are linked to commercial interests in their countries of origin. An example is Greenpeace, "which is promoting the solar energy equipment of the US-based Zemlin Surface Optical Corporation" in Bihar, a prime target of several foreign NGOs eager to shut down extractive and energy industries in that impoverished state.
Of the 12 names in the list of key foreign players in anti-thermal and nuclear power and anti-coal and uranium mining activities in India, eight are from Greenpeace: Paul Horseman, Greg Muttitt, Emma Gibson, Grace Boyle, Daniel Pentzlin, Lauri Myllyvirta, Owen Pascoe and Carmen Cravatt. Three are from the Sierra Club: Matthew Phillips, Justin Guay and Rosemary Forest. The twelfth, Mike Zemlin works on behalf of Surface Optics. The Manmohan Singh government had "ignored the evidence linking them and other foreign nationals to several hundred agitations" against power plants and mining locations, according to an official investigating their activities, who added that "thus far, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has not initiated any action to check the activities of such NGOs".
Senior officials say that sections of the local population are "intensively targeted by these foreign nationals, who have (by now) developed a cadre of Indian sympathisers who join with them" in generating protest movements against key economic targets. They give the example of a Dutch-funded NGO, Cordaid, which in the guise of preventing atrocities against women in the Northeast, "has (in actuality) been training and leading agitations against oil prospecting in Manipur and uranium mining in Meghalaya, besides hydropower dams in Arunachal Pradesh". They have been working both directly as well as through local NGOs such as Core in Manipur and WING in Meghalaya, besides another named RWUS.
An oil expert working in the government said that "crude oil reserves in Manipur are enough to reduce India's oil import bill by 40%, provided more domestic players are allowed to prospect for oil in potential locations and given freedom to operate". He said that during the UPA period, "neither was the private company involved able to resume oil drilling nor was the Central government interested in creating the conditions needed for them to do so". Another official said that exploration work ought to be "given to more companies than just the Jubilant Group so that more fields get developed". He warned that four foreign NGOs in particular have been active since 2006 ensuring that a hostile climate gets created among the public, "even though the oil industry once developed can make Manipur the richest state in the Union".
A key official from the state warned that "foreign NGOs have developed considerable expertise in using the legal system in India in order to slow down and stop economic activities across various parts of India", by using the services of locals to file cases and generate adverse publicity about such activities. He said that "the Manmohan Singh government was more interested in buying oil from abroad and in getting uranium from outside" than in ensuring the proper exploitation of oilfields and uranium mines in the Northeast.
Information received by investigative agencies suggest that foreign nationals working for large NGOs have, over the years, forged close ties with key journalists as well as senior officials dealing with the indigenous industries that are being sought to get blocked by such forces. Although mounting evidence against Cordaid finally forced the Manmohan Singh government to finally ban the Dutch-funded NGO from working in India, the organisation appears to have got around the ban by funding the travel of key local activists to locations such as New York, Bangkok and Geneva, where "they were given training in ways to shut down operations of plants by both street protests as well as in routing such opposition through the courts and media".
An activist said that uranium mining in Meghalaya and oil drilling in Manipur, besides hydropower generation in Arunachal Pradesh, are all on the list of activities sought to be banned by the foreign NGOs freely operating across the concerned regions. "Even some top officials in Delhi do not want action to be taken against such NGOs", a state government employee in Meghalaya said, adding that "some officers use these NGOs to get scholarships for their children to study abroad, and thereby do their bidding". He warned that certain NGOs have used locations such as Bangkok or Hong Kong to train Indian nationals in GPS mapping as well as in GIS systems, so that they may identify locations and pass on the information to foreign funders.
Several officers pointed out that the intention of the NGOs was to deny India the electricity it needs for faster growth, pointing out that "even hydropower plants are being opposed (as in Arunachal Pradesh) while replacing thermal and nuclear power plants with solar energy was impossible" in a context where the cost of such systems is high and availability low. "The foreign nationals going around the country trying to block energy production know that this will reduce growth and create massive unemployment and social unrest". However, his colleague said that "their expertise is in ensuring agitations", adding that "several of these foreign nationals talk openly of how they have paralysed life in several locations in order to take down a functioning enterprise", thereby causing unemployment and income loss.
Scare stories are common, such as the recent fear created in Vidarbha (where Greenpeace and other NGOs seek to stop thermal plants from operating) that these plants would "suck away water from the land so that farmers would starve".
The anti-development agenda of such NGOs was given a fillip in July 2012, when a conference in Istanbul took place. The purpose was to devise ways of "taking down existing power plants and stopping the building of new ones", according to a former activist, who said that the Indian volunteers were trained to "spread hatred and fear of thermal and nuclear plants by linking them to death and disease", and to stop mining of coal, uranium and other natural resources. "We were explicitly taught methods of agitation and media management, as well as given expertise in the filing of cases in courts across the country", the activist said. Among the NGOs taking part in the Istanbul anti-industry conclave were Greenpeace, Climate Works Foundation and World Resources Institute. The conference decided to target both India and China, although the NGOs clearly find it much easier to operate in the former country. Incidentally, a website (sourcewatch.org) has detailed maps of both India and China showing the location of facilities against which agitations need to be launched.
The Intelligence Bureau got awakened to the growing menace to growth and social stability caused by foreign NGOs after they succeeded in halting the commissioning of the Koodankulam II reactor just before start-up. "For 20 years they were silent, but moved just when electric power would begin to flow to the grid from the Koodankulam plant", said a local official, adding that "religious charities with ties to France were hyperactive in funding the protests". As soon as the government cut off funding, the agitation stopped, thereby demonstrating the close link between agitation and foreign cash.
"We need to create 15 million new jobs every year and cannot do this unless the legal and other blockages created by foreign NGOs and their local partners get cleared", warned an official, adding that "we expect Home Minister Rajnath Singh to wake up to this reality before more time goes by, so that blocked projects resume".
Supporters of Greenpeace and other foreign NGOs active in India scoff at the fears expressed by the agencies, saying that all they are doing is to "ensure that the people of India live in a clean, green environment". They say that to consider such activities anti-national is to "indulge in paranoia and xenophobia", adding that the foreign nationals working in India "love your country and want to help it avoid the mistakes of the West".