Skip to main content

Greenpeace India activist wonders if it's crime to raise voice against UK-listed company with British MPs

Foresters protest against Essar Energy in Mahan
By Our Representative
Close on the heels of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs declaring in a court affidavit that it “prevented” Priya Pillai, a Greenpeace India activist, from boarding a flight to Britain in January, because her visit was alleged to be “prejudicial to the national interest” and would “hurt” India’s image abroad, the top activist has wondered whether it was a crime to raise the voice against Essar Energy, a London-based company. Headed by Indian tycoon Shashi Ruia, Essar Energy plc is incorporated in UK, and has its registered office in London and its head office in Mauritius.
In a blog she has written ahead of a crucial court hearing, the controversial activist said, “I am an Indian citizen who is not afraid to raise my voice against violations of laws that have been put in place to protect the aam aadmi’s rights. I fight to ensure that rampant coal mining in forest areas is only done in consonance with the laws and policies of the country. I believe that the interest of the forest dwellers, who often are unaware of their rights, is inviolable. I stand up for what I believe in.”
Specifically referring to Mahan forests, where "Essar Energy [LSE: ESSR] secured" what it called “stage 2 forest clearance from the Government of India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests for its Mahan coal block in Madhya Pradesh” a year ago, Pillai said, “It planned a is a clear example of how laws are being flouted in favour of foreign corporations like Essar and against the interest of the people of Mahan.” Pillai was stopped from going to London on January 11 as she was planning to board the plane to brief British MPs about Essar Energy's project.
According to Pillai, “I believe the government, which is duty bound to implement the law, has instead decided to act in favour of corporate interest – in this case Essar, a London based company. The Gram Sabha consent for mining in Mahan has been forged and environmental clearances have been granted under pressure despite the area falling under dense forest cover that was originally classified as ‘No Go’.” She added, “I have comprehensive evidence that establishes this."
“To ensure that Essar, which is registered in London, does not get away scot free, I decided to speak to British MPs who are concerned about tribal rights. It is essential for them to let Essar know that it is not acceptable to violate Indian laws. If this is not in National interest – what is? How can raising questions about a London based company violating Indian laws be against Indian interest?”, Pillai, who is a climate & energy campaigner at Greenpeace India, said.
The issue has already attracted international attention, with New York Times (NYT) reporting on Pillai approaching court petitioning against the Ministry of Home Affairs, asking for “her right to travel to Britain to be reinstated, as well as for monetary compensation for mental trauma and harassment.” NYT said, “The case has raised alarm among some NGOs which say the government of the new prime minister, Narendra Modi, is continuing the previous government’s policy of singling out NGOs that it believes are hurting the country’s potential for economic growth.”
NYT added, “Pillai’s case is just the most recent instance of government action against Greenpeace India. In 2014, the government froze $267,000 in funds from Greenpeace International and ClimateWorks, an American organization, meant to go to Greenpeace India, an action the Delhi High Court overturned in January. In another instance, the Income Tax Department taxed contributions to Greenpeace India for 2010-11 as income, the group said, saying the funds did not result from charitable activity and were therefore not tax-exempt.”

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.

Cruel legacy of Green Revolution? Covid-19 underscores 'risky, fragile' food system

By Moin Qazi*  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the risks of an unhealthy diet and the extreme fragility of food systems. The economic reconstruction that will follow the pandemic is the perfect opportunity to provide better nutrition and health to all. The pandemic should spur us to redefine how we feed ourselves, and agricultural research can play a vital role in making our food systems more sustainable and resilient.

Coal blocks for tycoons: Rinchi village tribals may be declared forest land encroachers

By Gladson Dungdung*
On June 18, 2020, the Government of India initiated the process for auctioning 41 coal blocks for commercialisation. These coal blocks are located in different states within India and most of them fall under Fifth Schedule areas. The Indian government claims that their decision to auction these coal areas is a big step towards making the country Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant) in the energy sector.