Friday, July 04, 2014

Top corporate group "invokes" IB report to fight campaign against displacement of 50,000 villagers

Greenpeace sponsored campaign against Essar Group in Mumbai
By Our Representative
The recently-leaked Intelligence Bureau (IB) report is already turning into a full-blown controversy, with Greenpeace International’s India chapter – which is the target of attack from the powerful corporate circles and the government for being “anti-development” -- all set to launch a strong offensive against it. In a statement on the IB report, influential the NGO has wondered whether to “speak for the 50,000 villagers who will be displaced by Essar’s proposed coal mine” in Madhya Pradesh and other such projects is “anti-development”.
“It was our working together with various civil society groups that helped bring about a strong nuclear liability bill, ensuring insurance for people in case of a nuclear disaster and making sure we don’t have another Bhopal”, the Greenpeace has claimed, recalling, “We also worked with companies like Dell, HCL and Wipro and government agencies to formulate the E-waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011 tackling a major e-waste disposal problem with the growing IT industry.”
Seeking funds support from individuals, Greenpeace has contended, “The freedom to speak out against threats to the environment and dangers to the health of the people of this country is a fundamental right. It is these freedoms that are under attack now. We need your support now more than ever.” It added, it is seeking the support because it does not accept donations from governments or corporations.”
The statement comes close on the heels of reports that the Essar group that “tried to invoke” the IB report in its Rs 500 crore defamation action against Greenpeace’s campaign against its coalmining in Madhya Pradesh, while the Greenpeace has called the case a “strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP) to stifle voices of opposition”. Essar in January filed a suit in the Bombay high court against Greenpeace, followed by a case at the district and sessions court Waidhan in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh, claiming that the NGO was “inciting local people against Essar’s mining plans in the forests of Mahan.”
Police take away banner "installed" on Essar building in Mumbai
Essar said that the NGO, in protesting against the mining, had “unfurled (a banner on Essar’s seven-floor Mumbai building) a banner statement purportedly by the Essar Group that 'WE KILL FORESTS'. The contents of the banner were not only false and malicious but also ex facie offensive, insulting, distasteful and per se defamatory and libelous of the plaintiff and the Essar Group.” It added, the Greenpeace has now “began to hand out leaflets outside [Essar’s] property. In the said leaflet, once again scurrilous remarks were made against the Essar Group of Companies that it was responsible for the destruction of the forests.”
While Essar called the “contents of the leaflets were not only false and malicious but also ex facie offensive, insulting, distasteful and per se defamatory and libelous”, Greenpeace, through well-known Mumbai advocate Mihir Desai, filed a response in an affidavit stating: “The present suit is nothing else but what is known as a SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) essentially a suit filed in order to prevent public participation in matters that affect the public interest.”
“The suit is filed with mala fide motives purely to suppress any criticism of the ill deeds of the Essar Group. It is a classic case of corporate culpability and steamrolling by which they seek to silence all those who make genuine criticism of their environmentally degrading, ecologically damaging actions against the interest of thousands of villagers whose livelihood and culture depends on the forests”, it added.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace campaigner Arundhati Muthu in a separate statement, quoted by media, has said: “We stand by everything we’ve said about Essar. We have evidence to back it. We are willing to provide that in court. Essar is clearly trying to bulldoze its way. Now they’ve even brought an IB report into the mix”, adding, “Essar counsel attempted to include the IB report as evidence to which the judge asked what the case was about.”

IB report on NGOs "lacks expertise" 

In a fresh twist to the controversial IB report, KS Subramanian, ex-DGP, Tripura, and former director of the Research and Policy Division of the Union Home Ministry, has said that the IB lacks “a standard protocol of operations and accountability”, and “often oversteps its limit to go into areas in which it lacks expertise.” The top expert has insisted, “Unless the government is serious about laying down a charter of duties for the IB its reports will always be used by vested parties to further their own interests.”
“Neither the IB nor the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) or the other intelligence agencies in India have a clearly established and credible accountability mechanism. The IB lacks a proper legal framework and charter of duties. This led to many abuses during the Emergency (1975-77), which were exposed by the Shah Commission set up by the Janata Party government in 1977 after the electoral defeat of the Congress party”, Subramanian said.
“The IB, a secret intelligence agency headed by generalist officers of the Indian Police Service (IPS), often strays into subjects without the required expertise”, Subramanian insists adding, “The economic impact of NGO activities in the country are best examined by the concerned ministries such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) or by the Planning Commission.”
He further says, “The report and recommendations of the committees set up by these ministries need not be classified. The 2008 Experts Group Report on Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas published by the Planning Commission, dealing with Maoist violence in central India, was not a classified report and is available to the general public. However this report has been largely ignored by the MHA, in favour of a classified IB report characterising the Maoist violence as the “biggest internal security threat” in India.”

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