The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the central government to ‘unblock’ contributions to the tune of Rs 1.87 crore received by non-governmental organisation Greenpeace India Society (GPIS) from its Amsterdam headquarters, saying the ministry showed no ‘material to restrict access’ to foreign funds. The judgment flies in the face of the Home Ministry’s assertion that its source of funding fell afoul of the Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act. The telling observation by the court, however, was that merely because some NGOs held views that were not in consonance with that of the government’s, it did not mean they were acting against national interest.
The government’s move had come after a dubious Intelligence Bureau report. It stated that GPIS’s activities against key development projects had adversely affected the Indian economy. Officials from the government maintain that many Indian NGOs continue to use people-centric issues to create an environment that eventually stalls key development projects. Although foreign funding can have unwanted strings against attached to them, the present government’s assertion that all opposition to government-mandated projects is undesirable, reeks of dishonesty and speaks volumes of this government’s inability to handle dissent. By definition, dissent does not suit the government. However, advocating against development projects that adversely affect livelihoods and displace millions without the requisite social safety nets, is an act that sustains a healthy democracy.
This is not to suggest that all NGOs are devoid of any sins, considering that many of them have been blacklisted for misappropriating funds. Also, it must be understood that the proliferation of NGOs funded by private entities is not desirable for a democracy. A fear still remains that its proliferation can establish an unaccountable system of governance, whereby the government abdicates its role in delivering essential services to the people. To attack certain NGOs, however, without adequate proof and for merely dissenting, is an unwarranted act.