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

It's now official: Developed Gujarat's regular, casual workers earn less than 19 top states

By Rajiv Shah
Though not as low as state chief minister Vijay Rupani claims it to be (0.9%), Gujarat’s unemployment rate, at least as reflected in a recent report released by the Government of India, is 4.8%, lower than the national average, 6%. Yet, ironically, the same report, released soon after the Lok Sabha polls came to an end in May 2019, brings to light an even grimmer reality: Lower wages in "model" and "developed" Gujarat compared to virtually the whole of India, including the so-called Bimaru states.

Amaravati: World Bank refusing to share public grievances on Land Pooling Scheme

By Our Representative
A new report, prepared by the advocacy group Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), New Delhi, has taken strong exception to the World Bank refusing to share its independent assessment of the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), floated by the Andhra Pradesh government in order to build the new capital.

Telangana govt proposes to give unfettered powers to forest officials, 'help' corporates

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao*
The Telangana Government is contemplating to replace the Telangana Forest Act 1967 with a new law - the Telangana Forest Act (TFA) 2019, trampling the rights of adivasis ensured under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA Act 2006) and Panchayats Extension to Schedule Area (PESA) Act 1996 both of which are central acts.

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.

Beijing-based infrastructure bank 'funding' India's environmentally risky projects

By Our Representative
A new civil society note has questioned the operations of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to fund projects in India through the Government of India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), calling it “a risky venture”.

Govt of India 'lying': MGNREGA budget reduced by Rs 1,084 crore in 2019-20

Counterview Desk
NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a well-known advocacy group for the rural jobs guarantee scheme, under implementation since 2005, has said that the statement by the Rural Development Minister has a made a mockery of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) on the floor of Parliament, revealing the ruling BJP’s “anti-worker and anti-poor bias”.

Include all workers exposed to silica dust in anti-TB programme: Govt of India told

Counterview Desk
In a letter, sponsored by well-known civil rights organization, Occupational & Environmental Health Network of India and signed by more than 60 professionals and activists*, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has been told that Indian policy makers shouldn't just acknowledge higher TB risk to mine and stone crusher workers, but also “other silica-exposed workers”.

Universal healthcare? India lacks provisions to 'fight' non-communicable diseases

By Moin Qazi*
Universal health coverage (UHC) -- ensuring that all people receive proper and adequate health care without suffering financial hardship -- is an integral part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It enables countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital.

Govt of India seeks to 'subvert' autonomy of adjudicating authorities: RTI amendment

Counterview Desk
India's independent Right to Information watchdog, The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), in a statement, has said that the Government of India’s proposed amendments to the RTI Act to empower the Centre to unilaterally decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of Information Commissioners at the Centre and States “seriously undermine” the law.