Games some foreign-funded NGOs play
By Shyam Khosla
In a surprise move, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has asserted that some foreign-funded NGOs were behind the prolonged agitation against the Kudankulam power plant. His assertion is surprising only in the sense that the Prime Minister is not in the habit of taking a public stand on politically sensitive issues. There must be some compelling reason behind his outburst. One explanation is that he is personally committed to atomic energy and is fed up with anti-nuclear lobby.
Otherwise, there is nothing new in his statement. The dirty role certain cash rich NGOs are playing in whipping up public anger against the nuclear plant in southern Tamil Nadu is in public domain for months. Sections of media have repeatedly reported that the so-called public anger against nuclear plants has been incited by foreign-funded NGOs. There are allegations that some NGOs are behind the agitation not for a social purpose as they claim, but to serve the private agendas of certain foreign powers and multi-nationals dealing with fuel industry. They exploit the Fukushima tragedy to spread panic and raise environmental issues to arouse passions. They provide transport to carry farmers from villages to the site of the power plant and provide them with food to keep the agitation alive. Prime Minister’s assertion has, however, validated the accusations against these NGOs of inciting local people to stall the generation of nuclear power. MOS in PMO V Narayanasamy has further disclosed that the Prime Minister’s statement was based on the findings of a Home Ministry probe into the affairs of about a dozen NGOs funded by elements in USA and European countries. These NGOs were receiving huge funds for religious purposes (read conversions), social services like eradication of leprosy and rehabilitation of physically handicapped persons but were diverting a large part of the money to build up the agitation against nuclear power plant.
It is no one’s case that all NGOs are doing dirty work. There are countless voluntary entities that are rendering yeoman’s service to the society in numerous fields of public life. Further, it would be wrong to presume that all NGOs agitating against nuclear power plants are agents of foreign powers or the thermal power plant industry. Many in the country have genuine concerns about the safety of these plants and their adverse impact on environment. It is for the Government and the scientific community to address these concerns and convince the people of their good intentions. Not enough has been done by the authorities in this regard. A massive public awareness campaign to address apprehensions about the side effects of nuclear power generation is long overdue. A workshop at Chandigarh organized by a media forum a few years back revealed that NGOs were inciting the people claiming that nuclear plants are responsible for the spread of cancer and render the people and land adjoining the plant infertile. These “findings” were insisted upon by representatives of some Punjab-based NGOs in the presence of senior scientists belonging to the Atomic Energy Commission. A campaign based on such “findings” did eventually succeed in scuttling the setting up a nuclear plant in Punjab. This experience shows how important it is to engage with the people and social organizations to build a consensus about nuclear energy. In the case of Kudankulam, Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, insists that all safety and environmental requirements had been taken care of. Kakodkar is an eminent scientist and has no personal agenda in promoting nuclear energy. We need to respect the credible assurances given by scientists of his stature. The country can’t allow foreign powers and elements inimical to our national interests to put under siege Rs 13,000 crore Indo-Russian nuclear plants in Tamil Nadu when these are ready for generating electricity that our country badly needs for its rapid growth. Intriguingly neither the Prime Minister nor the Union Home Ministry has identified the foreign-funded NGOs that they say are fueling the anti-plant agitation in Tamil Nadu, though four of these outfits are reported to have been booked for alleged violation of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act. Officially, the country has been told that enquiries conducted by government agencies have revealed that about a dozen NGOs were suspected of serious financial irregularities, including falsification of documents, diversion of funds and lack of transparency in financial dealings. Why their identities are being protected? The nation has a right to know the names of the entities that are under the Government scanner. Transparency in the matter will lend credibility to the Government’s claim. Is it a fact that most of the tainted NGOS are funded by Churches based in America and Europe?
Church, particularly foreign missionaries have a poor track record. They are known to have played – are still playing – a fraudulent role in tribal areas of the country under the garb of providing health and education to the deprived sections of society. They resort to fraudulent means to convert simple-minded Tribals thereby uprooting them from the civilizational and cultural roots. This often leads to conflicts between the Church-promoted groups and Tribals as was the case in Dangs district of Gujarat. Several Commissions of Enquiry set up by Congress Governments in 50s and 60s of the last century had blamed the Church for resorting to unethical means to harvest souls. Now, the Congress-led Government has discovered that Church-funded NGOs are putting nuclear plants under siege. It is no secret that the Church, particularly foreign missionaries, played a big role in inspiring, organising and funding separatist movements in the north-east. The well entrenched and cash rich Church was behind the insurgency in Nagaland in the wake of the transfer of power in 1947. The colonial rulers ensured that large sections of Nagas were converted to Christianity. They had systematically sowed seeds of separatism among Nagas and encouraged them to perceive them as a separate nation. Naga leaders claim that Mahatma Gandhi had told them they were entitled to be an independent nation if they didn’t want to be part of the Indian Union. We can entertain such claims to our own peril. One partition was more than enough and a great tragedy. The nation is in no mood for conceding demands for separation raised by misguided sections of the society. The stark reality, however, is that the entire north-east, barring Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, is in the grip of insurgencies. Whatever the genesis of these separatist movements, a common factor is that these are inspired and supported by foreign missionaries.
Foreign missionaries and certain foreign-funded NGOs are in the line of fire for their role in promoting insurgencies and separatism and their links with Maoists. Some of these entities are over ground supporters of underground movements in the garb of human right outfits. Missionaries are indulging in fraudulent conversions in Tribal areas. Church-funded NGOs are stalling development projects including nuclear power plants. There is a strong case for a thorough enquiry into the role of the Church and NGOs funded by them. The Congress-led Government appears to be helpless in the matter. Is it because of the lady whose religion is a state secret?