US concerned over India's clampdown on NGOs

US ambassador to India says the government’s move against non-governmental organizations impacts freedom of speech

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The United States has expressed concern over the clampdown by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government against NGOs operating in the country, saying it could have a "chilling effect" on foreign-funded charities and activists, as well as on the freedom of speech and expression.

The Indian government decided to cancel the licenses of nearly 9,000 charity organizations last month. Organizations receiving foreign founding were the main target for this decision.

The first NGOs to face the consequences of the decision were Greenpeace India and the US-based Ford Foundation.

Modi's government has frozen the accounts of Greenpeace, limited the travel of some activists, and has put the US-based Ford Foundation on a security watch list.

Greenpeace India chief Samit Aich said the organization will be forced to close within a month with the loss of 340 jobs after the government crackdown, the Guardian reported.

Aich said the closure is imminent because of the lack of funds for salaries and rental office space.

If that happens, it would be forcibly closed down for the first time since it was founded in 1971.

Indian media reported that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was also being investigated. A spokeswoman for the foundation said it was seeking clarification on the matter.

According to the government’s declaration, the NGOs had were ordered to file mandatory annual returns and those that did not comply would not find a place in India.

Indian officials accuse the foreign funded organizations of "having ulterior motives" and "damaging the Indian economy."

They claim that activities by the NGOs such as protesting power projects, mining deals and genetically modified food programs are hurting the economic development.

Countries such as Uzbekistan, China, Russia, Egypt and Venezuela also restrict the activities of foreign funded NGOs, often blaming them causing civil unrests and fueling tensions against the governments.

TRTWorld and agencies