Environmental Activism on the Inland Waterways Projects and its Relationship to FCRA

On January 1, 2019, a news item appeared in several mainstream media outlets (see here for instance). The story was about how 50 environmental ‘experts’ wrote to the Union Ministry for Environment demanding that inland waterways projects (executed by the Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways and Water Resources) seek environmental clearance and that such clearances be made legally binding. To understand the near-revolution created in efficient goods transport by reviving inland waterways, read this article.

The demand by activists/experts can be found here which contains the names of the signatories as well. Some of the arguments put forward in that letter are laughter-worthy, but let us, as is our practice, leave them aside. Instead, we will see who the signatories are. Actually, as is our wont, we are not interested in the signatories either. We are interested in the organizations/NGOs that they are part of (or run). An examination of the list revealed that many of the signatories belong to foreign funded NGOs, i.e., FCRA-NGOs in our parlance. The following provides the list of these FCRA-NGOs. Signatories whose names appear in the original letter, but do not figure in this post either do not belong to any FCRA-NGO or that this blogger is unable to find any public domain, credible information for the same.

Ok then, let us dive in.

  1. Ashish Kothari, Founder of Kalpavriksh, MH/83930431. Rs. 1.17 Crore foreign fund inflow in 2017-18. Donors include Misereor, Katholische Zentralstelle fuer Entwicklungshilfe, Heinrich Boell Foundation-Germany.
  2. Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, TN/75900481. Rs. 2.4 Crore foreign fund inflow in 2017-18. Donors include: Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation-Delhi (which has unbenign foreign donors), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives-Philippines (Are its funds actually sourced from within Philippines or from a very large Western Nation, we wonder…), Greenpeace East Asia-Hong Kong,  etc..
  3. Himanshu Kulkarni-ACWADAM. ACWADAM is Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management in Pune. It is FCRA-NGO, MH/83930378. It received Rs. 88 lakh foreign funds in 2017-18. Its donors include: Ford Foundation, ICIMOD-Nepal, Ministry of Geology, Republic of Guinea.
  4. Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre. Hazards Centre is a Unit of Sanchal Foundation, Delhi which is FCRA-NGO, DL/231650268. It received Rs. 89 lakh foreign funds in 2016-17. Donors include:  Katholische Zentralstelle fuer Entwicklungshilfe-Germany, AID-Maryland-USA, etc..
  5. A Gopal Krishna of so-called Toxics Watch Alliance (aka Ban Asbestos Network of India) is also a signatory. To the best of this blogger’s knowledge, neither of these entities are Registered Society or Charitable Trust or a Section 8 Company in India. They are at best some websites.
  6. Himanshu Thakkar, SANDRP. A leader among river activists in India. SANDRP is not a NGO, but is a network of NGOs which include Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action-MH/83850025, Social Development Foundation-Imphal, MN/194130386, Legal Initiatives for Forest and Environment, DL/231661342, Rural Volunteers Centre-AS/20840007, Manthan Research and Social Development Society (also called as Manthan Adhyayan Kendra (MAK)); One of the Advisory Board Member of MAK is Prashant Bhushan. Himanshu Thakkar, Sripad Dharmadhikary and others are part of MAK’s team. Although MAK’s page says that their work on water reforms since 2015 is part of an entity called ‘Peoples Social Action (PSA-1)’, it may not be unlikely that it is a typo and it should have been ‘Programme for Social Action (PSA-2)’. Located in Tiruvalla, Kerala, PSA-2 is FCRA-NGO, KL/231650130 (search for its FCRA returns within Delhi in the FCRA website). PSA-2 says that its founding principles are derived from Liberation Theology (a Christian movement). PSA-2 is headed by Xavier Dias, Philip George and Aashima Subberwal. PSA-2 received Rs. 3.6 Crore foreign funds in 2017-18 including from Misereor, AID-USA, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Global Greengrants Fund-USA, American Jewish World Service, etc.
  7. Jagdish Krishnaswamy, ATREE is another signatory. ATREE is Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Bengaluru and is FCRA-NGO, KA/94420739. ATREE received Rs. 44.6 Crore foreign funds in 2017-18.
  8. Joe Athialy is Executive Director of Delhi based Centre for Financial Accountability (CenFA). CenFA does not have a Darpan entry. It is not listed in the Companies database of Ministry of Corporate Affairs. It may be a Delhi state registered society/trust, but we doubt that possibility. CenFA’s address in its website matches the address of a FCRA-NGO, called CACIM. Niti-Aayog’s Darpan Portal mentions that Joe Thomas Athialy is the Chief Functionary of India Action for Critical Action Centre and Movement (CACIM) which is a FCRA-NGO, DL/231661081 (see also U74899DL2005NPL138493). However, CACIM’s website says Purnima Gupta is head (she also signs the FC4 return). CenFA/CACIM awards a ‘Smitu Kothari Fellowship for Young Journalists’. In 2018, one of the awardees is Raksha Kumar, who wrote the horrendous article in the magazine called ‘Foreign Policy’ on our Amarnath Yatra which was based on the report of a FCRA-NGO with ecumenical roots (see our old post for details). CACIM receives healthy foreign funds from Global Greengrants Fund-USA, South Asia Women Fund-USA, American Jewish World Service-USA, Association for India’s Development-USA, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice-USA etc. CenFA’s activities appear to be to lobby with large international banks such as the Asian Development Bank and others for ‘environmental oversight’ when they award large loans to India for infrastructure development. This operation can be understood via this report produced by CenFA for Bank Information Centre-Europe, which incidentally was sponsored by Oxfam-Hong Kong.
  9. Kanchi Kohli is another signatory. The petition calls her as “Independent Researcher”. However, KK is mentioned as Legal Research Director for Environmental Justice in the US Non-profit, “Namati” (EIN=45-2796201). Also, this page of Namati which provides a bio of KK says that “KK’s work is done in collaboration with Centre for Policy Research, India”. Centre for Policy Research is a FCRA-NGO, DL/231650007. Its FCRA filings mention that it receives ‘donations’ from Namati Inc-USA.
  10. Madhuresh Kumar, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM). NAPM has been a long-standing leftist body. However, it is a network. He also appears to be loosely associated with CACIM, Delhi.
  11. Anu Aga. A well known businessperson, she was also a member of the National Advisory Council, the superbody which advised and monitored the Union Government during the days of UPA. Anu Aga is on the Board of The Akanksha Foundation, FCRA-NGO, MH/83780558. She is also a Founding Trustee of Ananta Aspen Centre, FCRA-NGO, DL/231661619.
  12. Nityanand Jayaraman is listed without an organization. He is part of The Other Media, FCRA-NGO, DL/231660085 which receives ‘donations’ from Global Greengrant Fund-USA, AID-USA, Trocaire-Ireland, Cordaid-Netherlands, etc..
  13. Fr. Anand Mathew, Varanasi is another signatory. He is part of the Indian Missionary Society, Varanasi, FCRA-NGO, UP/136760002.
  14. Samir Mehta, International Rivers (IR). IR is not an Indian Organization. It is based out of USA. IR sends lots of ‘donations’ to many FCRA-NGOs in India though. One important FCRA-NGO ‘donee’ of IR is ‘Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment’, DL/231661342, run by the ace-NGT (National Green Tribunal) lawyer, Ritwick Dutta.
  15. Sandeep K Pattnaik of National Centre for Advocacy Studies (NCAS). NCAS is located in Pune and is a FCRA-NGO, MH/83930363. It receives ‘donations’ from National Foundation for India (Delhi), Unitarian Universalist Association-UK, American Jewish World Service, Ford Foundation, Oxfam etc.
  16. Shripad Dharmadhikary, MAK. MAK has already been covered under the paragraph on Himanshu Thakkar.
  17. Shweta Narayan (SN) is mentioned as belonging Healthy Energy Initiative India (HEII). HEII’s website says that HEII is part of Community Environmental Monitoring (CEM) which is part of ‘The Other Media (TOM)’. Thus SN is part of TOM, FCRA-NGO, DL/231660085.

This Post passes no judgement on the individuals mentioned. The only aim of this Post is to bring out  the foreign funding aspect of the organizations with whom the environmental activists are associated with, to the knowledge of the public. Nothing more and nothing less. This work would not have been required had the mainstream media, Government organizations and others mention the FCRA details whenever they mention the organization or its functionaries’ names in any news or publicity item.

Everything about the foreign funding aspect and the relationship between organizations and the personalities can be verified from Government of India websites such as fcraonline.nic.in and ngodarpan.gov.in.

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Environmental Activism on the Inland Waterways Projects and its Relationship to FCRA

2 thoughts on “Environmental Activism on the Inland Waterways Projects and its Relationship to FCRA

  1. Excellent research. Would be useful to also show your own identity and funding sources clearly on the blog. Regarding NGOs mentioning their FCRA connections every time they are named, only issue is its cumbersome, else there is no problem. Also, FCRA info is publicly available. In any case, you should insist on such info (fund sources etc) being named then for every entity who figures in news reports, who write to Govt etc., like journalists, bloggers like yourself, politicians, ministers, govt officials, and so on.

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  2. Thank you for writing this narrative and taking the trouble to describe the signatories in greater detail. Surely you have a right to your opinion about the critique on inland waterways, including calling it laughable. Democratic discourse invokes such criticism as well, and its great to see polite language employed.

    I now look forward to a similar narrative of who funds who in a set of top ten corporate investments in India. It would we worthwhile examining if those who receive FDI have to comply with the level of rigour employed for FCRA Act compliant organisations. If that is not the case, I would certainly hope to see some critical engagement by your team about such investments, which many consider to be benefiting the foreign investor and fund recipients and not so much the public at large.

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