In a report leaked to the media, it alleges that Greenpeace and other NGOs are using foreign money to launch anti‐nuclear, anti‐coal and anti‐GM food agitations, thus reducing India’s GDP growth by a whopping 2–3% per year. The report expresses outrage that one NGO has got funding for criticising the Gujarat model of development. The IB suggests screening and stopping all foreign funding of NGOs that support such “antinational” activities.
This is plain wrong. Every human being has a right to her own concept of what is good or bad for development. I disagree strongly with many NGOs on some issues, while agreeing with them on others. To oppose nuclear power, e‐waste, large dams or carbon emissions can, in some cases, be called misguided. But it is not anti‐national. It is a rival view of what development should be about. No thinking person views GDP as the only measure of development. If you go by GDP alone, Mahatma Gandhi was far more anti‐development than Greenpeace.
He believed that happiness lay in reducing one’s wants, not in consuming more. This would be devastating for GDP growth, of course, but the Mahatma did not think that mattered. He opposed modern machinery, swore by handspun cloth, and wanted India to be a collection of self‐sufficient village republics. If implemented, these ideas would have slashed GDP growth by much more than the 2–3% than the IB complains about.
Call the Lie
But what is the basis for the IB’s estimate anyway? The 2–3% of GDP it claims as the annual loss is around Rs 2,00,000–3,00,000 crore. Has it cited any respectable economist in this matter? Does it have a peer‐reviewed model? Not at all. Worse, the sums received from abroad by the “anti‐development” NGOs have averaged barely Rs 50 crore or so per year. The government can easily spend 10 times as much on exposing the falsity of NGO claims (there is indeed much falsehood around). If at the end of it all, the NGOs carry more credibility than the government or IB, the reason cannot be that dollars are somehow more convincing than rupees.
I would agree with the IB that some foreign‐financed NGO crusades and agitations are based on halftruths and plain falsehoods. But that is equally true of agitations by Indian organisations and political parties. Many agitations claiming to promote the public interest actually harm it. Yet, these notions must be combated in public debate, not by executive fiat. Alas, bad ideas are so widely supported by purely desilobbies in India that foreign money is just the icing on the cake. Blame the cake, not the icing.