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Top British weekly Economist warns Modi clampdown on NGOs will boomerang

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat
By Our Representative
Influential British weekly The Economist has warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his efforts to cow down non-government organizations (NGOs) in India will in the long run rally his political opponents against him. Going by experience around the world, it insists, “As countries grow richer and aspirations rise, NGOs will grow only more influential in helping to promote social equity and civil rights. Those now advocating tighter scrutiny of activist outfits may come to regret it”.
Pointing out that Modi shouldn’t forget that his political opponents, once in power, may clampdown on RSS on the same grounds he trying against NGOs, The Economist says, “Hindu nationalists in the RSS often claim to run the world’s biggest NGO.” But it should know it has “strong foreign links, draws on an Indian diaspora in America and elsewhere for support, and dishes out help across borders, such as in Nepal following last month’s earthquake.” And this would be enough reason for it to “face close scrutiny itself” one day, when “Modi is gone”.
Titled “Who’s afraid of the activists?: Democratic Asian governments as well as authoritarian ones crack down on NGOs”, The Economist seeks to compare what is happening in with what Central Asian dictatorships, where officials call NGOs “battering-rams that damage national sovereignty”.
Telling Modi that “battering-rams, after all, have two ends”, the weekly compares India’s clampdown with China, where “a new law restricting independent organisations is being drafted, as activists are hounded, including five women recently detained for more than a month for campaigning against sexual harassment.”
Things are not very different in Cambodia, whose rulers say they must “handcuff any NGOs that stir up political trouble”, The Economist points out, wondering, “You would expect authoritarian states to suffer from NGO-aversion. But many of the ostensibly more liberal Asian polities also display the symptoms, especially where prickly nationalists are in charge.”
Thus, the weekly says, while in Sri Lanka the defence ministry took charge of “regulating NGOs” describing them as a “necessary guard against traitors”, in India “Modi snarled that ‘five-star activists’ were bent on doing down his country.”
“A new law in Indonesia imposes tight restrictions on NGOs so as not to ‘disrupt the stability and integrity’ of the country. And three years ago Pakistan closed down Save the Children and booted out its foreign staff, saying that spies all too often masquerade as aid-workers”, the weekly says, even as drawing similar comparisons with what is happening in Bangladesh and Kyrgyzstan.
Especially taking a dig at “Hindu nationalist outfits” of India, notably the “giant” RSS, which rage at Christian charities, the weekly recalls, “The boss of the RSS insists that the late Mother Teresa cared more about converting Kolkata’s poor than helping them”. It adds, in the same tone, “the Indian home ministry says that $13 billion in foreign money has gone to local charities over the past decade”, adding, “Of the top 15 donors, 13 were Christian outfits.”
“Who is to say they were not saving souls rather than improving lives? It is common to hear such claims in India”, “The Economist” says, adding, “An overlapping complaint is that groups promote Western values—including the idea that power should be monitored and shared among many actors and institutions, not hoarded by governments.”
The weekly takes strong exception to the “leaked report by India’s Intelligence Bureau which “absurdly” claimed that “people-centric campaigns against coal, nuclear and hydroelectric projects and against GM crops were costing the economy 2-3 percentage points of growth a year.”
Pointing out that the previous Congress wasn’t far behind in clamping on environmentalists, the weekly says, if in January Indian officials “stopped a Greenpeace activist from leaving the country because she planned to testify to British parliamentarians about coal mining in India”, earlier the Manmohan Singh government “pushed through a law regulating 45,000 foreign-funded groups”, accusing “American NGOs of being the black hands behind anti-nuclear protests.”

Comments

Anonymous said…
The Government has rules that ensures that the citizens are not victims of rapacious corporations. Organizations including NGOs, have to conform to those rules. Those rules were in place BEFORE the NGOs were formally formed. Even now, the NGOs are free to leave. The Economist's arguments are as phony as a three dollar bill.

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