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India cracking down on foreign-funded charities

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 19, 2014 at 7:39 am •  Published: June 19, 2014

NEW DELHI (AP) — India is cracking down on foreign-funded charities after receiving an internal report alleging they are costing the country up to 3 percent of its GDP by rallying communities against polluting industries.

The national Investigative Bureau's report — a copy of which was obtained Thursday by the Associated Press — also accuses the groups including Greenpeace, Amnesty International and Action Aid of providing reports "used to build a record against India and serve as tools for the strategic foreign policy interests of Western Governments."

The Home Ministry said Thursday it would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the report, which has sparked a firestorm of debate in Indian newspapers and on TV news channels.

But in a letter last week, the ministry ordered the Reserve Bank of India to hold all foreign contributions to India-based charities until they are cleared by the ministry, spokesman K.S. Dhatwalia said. He said Thursday the order would help the government control how much money was coming into India, and how it was being spent. The charities had previously reported annually on how they used their funding.

The report specifically criticized the charities for organizing public protests against nuclear power plants, uranium mines, coal-fired power plants, genetically modified crops and electronic waste.

"The negative impact on GDP growth is assessed to be 2-3 percent" each year, the report says, without elaborating on how that assessment was made.

Organizations and activists named in the report called the allegations ludicrous.

"If indeed we are a threat to national security, one would assume the government would move to engage with us," Greenpeace India's executive director, Samit Aich, said in a written statement to AP. "This seems to be a slander campaign designed to pave the way for rash (project) clearances, high-handed action against civil society and corporate Raj."

The crackdown reflects India's struggle to balance industrial and economic development with protecting and elevating its staggering number of poor.

While rapid economic growth — averaging near 10 percent for the past decade — has boosted the incomes and living standards of millions, a two-year downturn with GDP growth falling below 5 percent has made many nervous. Inflation has rocketed into double digits, and job growth has stalled.

Demands for economic revival helped catapult Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party to a landslide election victory in May. Some have blamed public resistance to development projects for holding up economic growth.

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