Monday, May 18, 2015

Attack on climate activists is Indian nationalist xenophobia, may "undermine" country's stance at Paris meet: ICN

By Our Representative
One of the world's prestigious climate change e-journal, "Inside Climate News" (ICN), has said that attacks on civil society groups that campaign for climate change will undermine "India's global standing, the stability of its democracy and its role in upcoming climate talks", which take place Paris this December. The e-journal is the third web-based news organization to win the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, which have gone to ProPublica and Huffington Post.
In a detailed analysis on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's crackdown, titled "What's Behind India's Crackdown on Social Justice & Climate Activists?", writer Katherine Bagley says, India recently "ramped up attacks on environmental and development organizations that work on climate, clean energy and sustainability issues" "just seven months ahead of international climate treaty talks in Paris in December."
Inspired the fear that foreign interests are trying to "curb the nation's economic growth", Bagley says India shouldn't forget that it is "the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, behind China and the United States, and home to millions of the world's people most vulnerable to global warming impacts such as flooding, extreme heat and sea level rise."
While pointing out that India will clearly "play a crucial role in the negotiations" at the Paris negotiations, with Modi already stressing in recent international speeches that his nation "must take a leadership role in the 'pressing global problem' of climate change", Bagley says, all this has come side by side with the "world’s largest democracy" freezing "bank accounts", restricting "international donations, and preventing climate activists "from traveling abroad."
It warns, quoting environmentalists, the Modi administration's "attacks" on the very civil society groups that have been integral in pushing India and other nations to take action on climate change could hamper the country’s global standing at the talks."
Especially referring to the freezing of foreign funds and bank acccounts of Greenpeace India, Bagley says, though they were "unfrozen by Indian courts", "in late April, the green group learned government officials had frozen seven of its bank accounts that are built largely on domestic donations, which make up approximately 70 percent of its $3.2 million annual budget."
The e-journal says, one should not forget that since its opening in 2001, Greenpeace India has been "one of the most vocal anti-coal groups in the country, bucking the Modi administration's all-of-the-above, pro-fossil fuel energy strategy."
It says, "The group successfully blocked coal mining in the Mahan forest in central India after a four-year legal battle and civil disobedience campaign. The organization, which has a staff of 340, also persuaded tea companies to phase out pesticides after it conducted an investigation into their health impacts on workers and consumers."
Pointing out that Greenpeace is hardly the only such organization facing government strictures, the e-journal says, "The Ford Foundation, 350.org and the ClimateWorks Foundation have seen their donations into India restricted or questioned by federal agencies as well. Nearly 9,000 NGOs (non-government organizations) were notified last month that their licenses to receive funding from abroad had been revoked."
Quoting William Antholis, an expert in climate change, international negotiations and development at the University of Virginia, Bagley says, it is "hard to read what is happening" in India, qualifying it as "simply be Indian nationalist xenophobia."
Bagley quotes Divya Raghunandan, programme director of Greenpeace India approvingly to say, the idea that civil society organizations "reduced Indian GDP by a number of percentage points is simply absurd". The civil society is in fact "a tiny gnat compared to India’s giant corporations. The idea that a group of a few hundred people have such enormous influence over the Indian economy smacks of paranoia."

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