Now, getting to the other side of the story, POSCO a steel giant, with high stakes of the western countries, had all the backing from the former Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi to the district level officials to get it going. Rules are violated, norms are given a go by, atrocities on the project opponents sponsored by the state and the goons, most of the local media managed either by corporate donations or threat by the government, how do the project opponents get their voice heard?
Internationalizing the issue perhaps is the only option for them. Some of these NGOs have only helped articulate their voice of dissent with the state. Which corporate house is funding these Charities/NGOs with the subversive intention of stalling the development process in India we do not know. Nor does the IB.
On anti-Vedanta activism the IB report has alleged that three UK based organization Amnesty International, Actionaid and Survival International have funded the campaign. The allegation against them is that they campaigned against VAL with their investors and because of their campaign only they withdrew money from the company. Should IB be so perturbed with the investors withdrawing money from VAL? Should it not be treated as an issue between VAL and its investors? Had the investors not been convinced with the ethical violations of VAL, why should they have withdrawn their support?
Actionaid has been alleged with taking the tribals to UK to present their case to the Directors and Shareholders of the company. In an ideal situation should not VAL directors and shareholders have comedown to Niyamagiri to interact with the local tribals?
The other allegation against Actionaid is that it facilitated three persons to be present in Niyamgiri area during the Gram Sabhas that had the final say whether bauxite is to be extracted from Niyamgiri or not. By alleging against the NGOs, IB has in a way questions the wisdom of the Supreme Court of India.
Again see this story on POSCO. The dream project of former UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has not been able to set its feet on the ground despite the ‘set up the POSCO project at any cost’ approach of the then Central Government. POSCO where a lot of financial interest of USA and its allies are vested also got the full throttled support of the Chief Minister of Odisha Navin Pattnaik.
Unfortunately it is the very same ‘bulldozer’ approach of the union as well as the state governments that POSCO has been witnessing an unprecedented resistance to the 3rd largest steel producing company that aspires to climb to the second position after the Odisha project is operational. At the level of Union Government led by the then UPA, ‘Madam Sonia and PM Manmohanji wants’ tag had compelled the government to ignore the reports of the committees set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Saxena Committee, Meena Gupta Committee, and Roy Paul Committee all had reported against the project or the way the project work was being done. Despite all these objections, POSCO was granted environmental clearance. Although there are sever violation and illegal aspects in POSCO’s forest and environment clearance but in the last hour of the Congress-led UPA Government, the then Environment and Forests Minister Veerappa Moily had approved the forest clearance. For these clearances Mr. Moily had been criticized through out the country.
Even some people directly alleged that to get election expenditure from the company, the Congress’s UPA Govt gave the clearances. Even one highly repute national fortnight news magazine published a cover story investigation report on Moily's irregularities.
At the local level the administration had run not an extra mile but miles together to acquire land for POSCO. Five persons had to lay their lives either opposing POSCO or being caught in the crossfire. Pitched battle between police and the protestors, firing, bombing by the hired goons, intra community fights ignited by the lobby working for POSCO has been the highlights of the last nine-years. While five have died, more than a hundred have been disabled due the atrocities by the police and hired goons. 350 cases have been files against more than 1200 people.
Apprehensions of being arrested have clouded the communities all through ever since they dared to oppose POSCO. Women have sat on 'dharna', and faced the police brutality. Even the school children have protested. Such has been the desperation of the women in this area, they were in a way forced to demonstrate by stripping themselves nude. But, the State and POSCO were not even embarrassed, but used the local media to shame the protesting women saying that Odisha has been shamed in the world by this.
To sum these up, IB does not really have a case other than FCRA violation by some of the NGOs. Again despite the details that it has collected, the State has erred in not taking action. But this document clearly hints at the intolerance of the Union government(s) to the voice of dissent with respect to various development projects. Tapan Padhi, a development worker, says, “Government should not broad brush all the NGOs. If there are some who have violated the rules and acts, it should take action against them. But, if it is so afraid of local issues being internationalized it will do better by adhering to the environmental rules and norms, international conventions on human rights and benefit distribution to the project affected persons. As the project affected persons do not see their future in the development projects they oppose it and when their opposition does not cut ice with the State that is heavily tilted in favor of the Corporate, they piggy ride the foreign funded NGOs to internationalize it to get their voices heard. It will be easier on the part of the Union of India to address the problem within the country rather than blaming the 'Phoren Hand’ that has already become obsolete. And in this digital era, if not the NGOs, the media will be used as a tool to internationalize the local issues. We must realize that the era of iron curtain is gone.”
While the IB is so caustic about some NGOs using the foreign funds to stall development projects, it also should have observed that substantial amount of good work done with the foreign funding like providing health services in the remote areas, augmenting livelihoods, etc. Whenever there is a provision there is bound to be misuses and aberrations. The duty of the state is to ensure proper implementation of the provision.
The report, apparently leaked, supposedly said the NGOs' agenda was in line with the foreign funding agencies, and against national interest, causing a 2 to 3 per cent of loss in GDP, and that only a small percentage of NGOs receiving foreign funds were submitting annual returns as required by law.
The wildlife expert and environmentalist Dr. Biswajit Mohanty says, “The IB has not professional competence to assess development and growth as it is primarily a security organisation tasked with protecting the integrity and internal security of India. It appears that the report has been instigated by demonic corporates out to destroy India's ecological security. I feel sad that the IB has played to their tune and came out with this unsubstantiated report.”
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