Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs remarks blaming US-based NGOs for engineering protests against nuclear reactors in Koodankulam come amidst an ongoing official investigation into several of these NGOs and their alleged violation of the rules of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
Officials have said that at least nine NGOs involved in the anti-nuclear agitation in Koodankulam are under investigation for allegedly misusing or diverting funds meant for other purposes into the protests. Of the total amount they have received in the last five years from foreign donors, including those based in the United States, a sum of about Rs 54 crore is under the scanner.
Minister of State in the Prime Ministers Office V Narayansamy said three NGOs were under investigation, though he refused to identify them.
Sources said two of the major beneficiaries of foreign funds who are actively involved in the protests are the Tuticorin Diocese Association (TDA) and the Tuticorin Multipurpose Social Service Society (TMSSS). Both these NGOs had FCRA clearance until last year but their names have now been removed from the home ministry website listing over 42,000 NGOs having FCRA clearance.
TMSSS is run by Bishop Yvon Ambroise of Tuticorin who is one of the main persons behind the protests.
According to information on the home ministry website, TMSSS received Rs 42 crore from abroad in the last five years for its work in rural development. TDA received Rs 22.7 crore in that period.
The other key player in the protests, S P Udayakumar, a former fellow of the Kirwan Institute in Ohio State University, is also under official scrutiny.
Officials suspect that the protesters are getting support from a lot of other NGOs as well, mostly Christian-run organisations. The home ministry recently sent a team of officials to check the accounts of a few of these organisations. Sources said these included TMSSS, Peoples Education for Action and Liberation (PEAL), Madurai, and Good Vision, Nagercoil.
When contacted, Udayakumar said his organisation had not collected even one rupee from abroad, and challenged everyone including the Prime Minister and Narayanasamy to prove otherwise. Narayanasamy had alleged that Udayakumar had received Rs 1.5 crore from foreign funders. If they can prove that I received any such funds, I am willing to stop all public activities and undergo any punishment including death penalty. When I legally challenged the allegation by Narayanasamy, his lawyer denied that he had made any such statement, he said.
In an interview to Science magazine, the Prime Minister had said that these NGOs do not appreciate Indias need to make use of high-technology like nuclear energy or genetically-engineered crops to move forward on its growth agenda.
You know, for example, what is happening in Koodankulam. The atomic energy programme has got into difficulties because these NGOs, mostly I think based in the United States, dont appreciate our country to increase the energy supply, Manmohan Singh said.
Asked whether nuclear energy had a role to play in Indias energy sector despite last years accident in Fukushima, Japan, he said, Yes, where India is concerned, yes. The thinking segment of our population certainly is supportive of nuclear energy.
He blamed these NGOs for his governments 2010 decision to put an indefinite hold on the commercialisation of Bt brinjal as well. There are NGOs, often funded from the United States and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces.
India is setting up two new 1000-MW nuclear reactors in Kudankulam with Russian help. The first of these reactors was to be commissioned in December last year while the other was to follow it six months later. However, due to continuing protests since August last year, the entire timeline has derailed. No work is taking place at Koodankulam power station since August last year. A minimal staff is present at the station to take care of the basic operations.
To allay the fears of the agitating public, the government had set up a 15-member panel of independent experts in October last year. This panel held a series of meetings with the leaders of the protestors and also officials of the state government. Udaykumar and Bishop Ambroise were among those who represented the protestors.
The panel answered the queries raised by the protestors on the safety and security of the reactors but was unsuccessful in convincing them to withdraw the agitation.
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