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Greenpeace India faces shutdown in one month

Greenpeace India has one month left to fight for its survival following a government crackdown.

Coal Block Cancellation Celebrations in Mahan Forest in India Women from the Mahan forest region walk through the village towards a local shrine in celebration of the Supreme Court of India's decision to cancel the licenses of 214 coal blocks, including those of Essar and Hindalco’s Mahan. Greenpeace India and Mahan Sangharsh Samiti have been engaged in a long running campaign over proposed open cast coal mining in the area.

Credit: © Anand Singh / Greenpeace

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Greenpeace India has one month left to fight for its survival following a government crackdown on civil society. The Indian government recently froze the environmental NGO's bank accounts, leaving just enough funds for staff salaries and office costs for 30 days, its executive director has said.

Calling it ‘strangulation by stealth’ Greenpeace India challenged the government's Ministry of Home Affairs to stop using arbitrary penalties and confirm they are silencing Greenpeace India because of its successful
campaigns.

It’s the first time in nearly half a century of campaigning that the environmental group faces having one of its national organisations forcibly shut down.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s decision to block Greenpeace India’s domestic bank accounts could lead to not only the loss of 340 employees of the organization but a sudden death for its campaigns on sustainable
development, environmental justice and clean, affordable energy.

The Executive Director of Greenpeace India, Samit Aich today addressed his staff to prepare them for the imminent shutdown of the organisation after 14 years in the country. “I just made one of the hardest speeches of my life, but my staff deserve to know the truth. We have one month left to save Greenpeace India from complete shutdown, and to fight the Home Ministry’s indefensible decision to block our domestic accounts,” said Aich.

Following allegations over foreign funding, Greenpeace India has been the subject of a string of penalties imposed by the Indian government, all of which have been overturned by the Delhi High Court. The latest is blocking access to domestic bank accounts funded by donations from over 77,000 Indian citizens.

While Greenpeace India is currently preparing its formal response to this decision as well as a fresh legal challenge, Aich is concerned that the legal process could extend well beyond June 1st - when cash reserves for
salaries and office costs will run dry.

Aich continued: “The question here is why are 340 people facing the loss of their jobs? Is it because we talked about pesticide-free tea, air pollution, and a cleaner, fairer future for all Indians?”

Priya Pillai, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace India whose overseas travel ban was overturned by the Delhi High Court in the month of March was also at the meeting. She said: “I fear for my own future, but what worries me much more is the chilling message that will go out to the rest of Indian civil society and the
voiceless people they represent. The Home Minister has gone too far by blocking our domestic bank accounts, which are funded by individual Indian citizens. If Greenpeace India is first, who is next?”

Environmental charities in Australia are also under attack, with some government MPs calling for their charitable tax status to be revoked. According to Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter, "The Abbott Government is losing the public argument on the Great Barrier Reef, on forests, on climate change and on the wind-back of protections of the natural places that we all love, so they are trying to intimidate environmental charities into silence."