When Are Foreign Funds Okay?
The Intelligence Bureau has, as we know prepared a document, updating it from the time of the UPA regime (which had reportedly started the dossier) indicating large scale foreign funding for subversive anti-development activities. Such as claiming that you have a greater right to your own lands and to your livelihood than monstrous profit-making private companies. Or raising ecological arguments that might stand in the way of the profits to be made by private corporations and the corrupt state elite, from mining, big dams, multi-lane highways and so on.
The IB report, signed by IB joint director Safi A Rizvi — alleges that the “areas of action” of the foreign-funded NGOs include anti-nuclear, anti-coal and anti-Genetically Modified Organisms protests. Apart from stalling mega industrial projects including those floated by POSCO and Vedanta, these NGOs have also been working to the detriment of mining, dam and oil drilling projects in north-eastern India, it adds.
Imagine—working against the interests of POSCO and Vedanta! Is there no end to the depraved anti-nationalism of these NGOs!
The average observer of Indian politics—being like me, not as sharp as the IB—might be a little befuddled by this apparently anachronistic allergy of two successive governments and its intelligence gathering organization, towards foreign funding, in an era in which the slightest slowing down of the pace of handing over the nation’s resources to multi-national corporations, is termed as “policy paralysis”, and attacked as detrimental to the health of the mythical “Sensex”. Older readers might remember that the inspiring slogan of the legendary Jaspal Bhatti’s Feel Good party was Sensex ooncha rahe hamara.
This post is just to help you figure out then, when it is Okay to applaud foreign funding and when it is not—because otherwise you might post something on your FaceBook page that attacks foreign funding when it is actually Okay—and then how stupid and anti-national you’ll look. Apart from being arrested and hauled off to jail, a few other “innocent” people might be killed, for as we know, if you did post something “objectionable” to the Hindu Right/India, you’re not innocent and may be legitimately killed. The street gangs of the Hindu Right have been in readiness for this moment when Their Man is PM for some years now. They also know that Their Man may not publicly defend them at all times—depends on whether they carry out their work in a non-BJP state or not. And whether state assembly elections are coming up there or not.
That is called being Drigdarshi. Far-sighted.
So in Maharashtra, Mohsin’s killing was described—in an apparent paradox—by the BJP ‘s central government Home Ministry as “communal” and by the state’s Congress government as merely “a law and order problem”. But in fact, not a paradox at all. The BJP is always keen to point out communal violence in states in which it is not in power. And the Congress plays the secular/communal card with the same unprincipled cynicism.
But I digress.
So—When are Foreign Funds Okay?
a) Foreign Funds are Okay if you are BJP.
The Delhi High Court indicted both Congress and BJP in March 2014 for accepting foreign funds from Vedanta subsidiaries in violation of provisions of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. (Vedanta clearly believes in covering all its bases—after all, who knows who will come to power).
BJP and Congress in their defence had argued that Vedanta is owned by an Indian citizen, Aggarwal, and its subsidiaries are incorporated here, therefore they are not foreign sources.
That’s the kind of fine distinction you must learn to make. For instance, there is no cap on parties’ expenditure during elections, only on individual candidates’ spending. Thus, Narendra Modi’s face on the front page of every newspaper and on huge hoardings all over the city did not get counted towards his poll expenditure. A Hindustan Times premium front page advertisement costs Rs 3950 PER SQUARE CENTIMETER.
How many advertisements like this one did you see? In how many newspapers? Over how many days? Where did the money come from?
We don’t know.
Says Amy Kazmin in Financial Times:
It may never really be known how much money Mr Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party spent on the dazzling, high-tech campaign to persuade millions of voters that he was the man to lead India out of its current economic and governmental malaise. But the technology that permitted Gujarat’s chief minister to simultaneously address 100 rallies – in the form of a 10-feet-tall hologram – while images of the crowd were beamed back to him at the BJP’s Ahmedabad offices cannot have come cheap.
Nor could the scores of trucks and buses – and the army of nearly 4,000 workers – required to move and install the satellite dishes and projectors at one remote site after another.
In Indian cities, bus shelters, billboards and newspaper front pages were plastered with so many advertisements bearing Mr Modi’s brooding face it was hard not to feel that Big Brother was indeed watching. Television broadcasts of the popular Indian Premier League cricket matches also aired a relentless series of Modi ads during commercial breaks.
Advertising industry executives estimate the BJP spent at least $500m on traditional media advertising alone. A member of Citizens for Accountable Governance, which helped run Mr Modi’s campaign, says the campaign spent around $670m over eight months. Others say the true spend is probably far higher. A BJP spokeswoman was unable to provide any official estimate at all. 
But—Remember—It does NOT matter, because Foreign Funds are Okay if you’re the BJP.
(Of course, today you can say that it is totally Not Okay for Congress to get foreign funds or have foreign people in the family and so on. It’s Open Season on the corrupt and arrogant Congress, and who cares).
Interestingly, the IB Report apparently plagiarized a paragraph from a 2006 speech by Modi attacking anti-Hindu NGOs in which he said, in part:
Funds are obtained from abroad; an NGO is set up; a few articles are commissioned; a PR firm is recruited and, slowly, with the help of the media, an image is created.
I couldn’t decide whether I was more struck by the IB’s promptness in wagging its tail for its new master, or by Modi’s wildly successful replication of his enemy’s strategy!
b) Foreign Funds are okay if you’re the RSS.
In Britain, Awaaz, South Asia Watch Limited, released an investigative report in 2004 which showed that
- RSS’s front organizations have received millions of pounds raised from the British public. These funds were collected by the Leicester-based registered charity, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) and its fundraising arm Sewa International.
- HSS and Sewa International are UK branches of the RSS and the main purpose of their fundraising is to channel money to extremist RSS fronts in India, despite their claim to be nonsectarian, non-religious, non-political and purely humanitarian organizations.
- Sewa International’s deep connections with the RSS were not made known to donors and the British public who gave funds in good faith for Indian humanitarian causes. These connections were also unknown to patrons of Sewa International appeals.
In the USA, a report on the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) documented the links between the organization, a Maryland, US based charity, and organizations of the Sangh Parivar in India. The IDRF operates in the US under the rules governing tax-exempt charitable organizations. These rules prohibit such organizations from participating in political activity of the kind that involves funnelling money overseas to violent sectarian groups. Further, the report provides evidence to argue that IDRF’s claim of being a non sectarian organization that funds development and relief operations in India is disingenuous at best, and that this claim is strategically designed to insert IDRF into the cultural milieu and goodwill of the Indian diaspora as the ‘charity of choice’. The report on a close scrutiny of the projects that the IDRF funds, of the IDRF itself, of the affiliations of its office-bearers, and of the organizations that support it and raise funds for it, concluded that the IDRF is fully linked with the Sangh Parivar and the Hindutva movement in India.
c) Foreign Funds Are Okay in the Defence Sector.
Soon after taking over, the Narendra Modi government gave the go-ahead to 100 percent FDI in the Defence Sector. About this, retired air chief marshal Fali Homi Major said:
“It’s an excellent move. We want to be indigenous and we must. When I say indigenous, the product should be Indian and the intellectual property rights should be Indian. But that does not mean you can’t take foreign assistance with foreign technology—that is needed.”
Major said this move will allow international companies into the sector and dismantle the public sector’s monopoly, for of course, the worst monopoly is the public sector’s monopoly—the monopoly of multi-national companies is healthy and historically inevitable.
Foreign Investment caps have been raised in many other sectors too (because that’s OKAY)—Telecom, Petroleum, Natural gas and Refining.
“Allowing automatic route for foreign investment is the single most critical thing about today’s FDI limit enhancement announcement,” said Devraj Singh, executive director, tax and regulatory practice, at global professional services organization EY. He added that the move will give a boost to FDI as most investors are “scared about the current rules and regulations”.
Of course, towards that heaven where investors are no longer scared of rules and regulations— THAT”s where every democracy should boldly go.
d) Foreign Funds Are Okay in setting up nuclear plants. (No, NO—not protesting at—SETTING UP). Not just state funds, but private companies, like the French company AREVA NP (a joint venture between AREVA and Seimens) and private US companies GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Westinghouse Electric have all invested in nuclear plants in India. (Of course, the US companies have to export their nuclear reactors, because not a single nuclear plant has been commissioned in the US since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. This is the phenomenon of outsourcing of dirty technology which the enlightened Western public will no longer accept in their backyards. Like the flooding of India with petrol guzzling SUVs that are no longer welcome on European and American roads).
e) Foreign Funds Are Okay for building roads, infrastructure and “clean energy”. These are large corporations stepping in—they are swooping down for the profits, not to build an ecologically sustainable world! What will this mean for poor people’s (i.e. the majority of India’s) access to basic needs?
Of course, where profits are doubtful the government has to step in, for risks can be taken only with taxpayers’ money, not with the money of shareholders of companies, right? Thus, the government has decided to fund the Rs 4,500-crore Eastern Peripheral Expressway project, after it received no bids from private players due to various delays. At the time of request for qualification, Reliance Infrastructure, IRB, Srei-OHL consortium and IL&FS showed interest in the project but nobody turned up with price bids. Thanks to delays, the private developers “got cold feet and their calculations on revenues and margins went haywire” - (translation: possibility of fewer profits)
Since I posted this, I have learnt that Greenpeace came out with a Fact Sheet on the industrialist Gautam Adani, Modi’s bosom buddy (or should that be chaddi buddy?), which shows that there are charges of money laundering, duty evasion, land scams, illegal clearing of mangroves in Mundra, and so on against Adani. (Aha, the click of things falling into place!)
(And for those who do not understand the significance of mangroves, it is well established that coral reefs and mangroves acted as a buffer against the fury of tsunamis, saving many lives, while concrete structures crumbled.)
The much hyped solar energy park in Gujarat is an Adani project. The Modi-Adani combo is deadly, and of course, they will use all opportunities to generate profits. It is well known Adani’s empire has benefited from Modi’s emphasis on economic ‘development.’ Solar energy is fine, but handed over to private interests focused only on profit? As for conventional energy, not only was most of Gujarat’s electricity capacity installed before Narendra Modi came to power in 2001, but during his term very little has been added.
f) Foreign Funds are Okay if they come from eBay owner Pierre Omidyar.
Omidyar Network is the philanthropy arm of eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Since 2009, Omidyar Network has made more investments in India than in any other country in its portfolio. These investments were largely thanks to Jayant Sinha (the son of BJP stalwart Yashwant Sinha), who was hired in October 2009 to establish and run Omidyar Network India Advisors. During Sinha’s tenure, Omidyar Network steered a large portion of its investments into India, so that by 2013, India investments made up 18% of Omidyar Network’s committed funds of well over $600 million, and 36% of the total number of companies in its portfolio. Some of this investement was in organizations with “distinctly political agendas”.
In February this year, Sinha stepped down from Omidyar Network in order to advise Modi’s election campaign, and to run for elections in Jharkhand from a BJP ticket, and he won. Shortly after Sinha left Omidyar Network to help Modi win, Modi gave a speech calling for opening India’s e-commerce market to foreign companies such as Ebay, whose largest shareholder is Pierre Omidyar.
Nicely it all comes together, no?
Now—Omidyar is indeed known to have been active in “pro-democracy” NGOs and other organizations in other countries, but these NGOs, far from hampering “development”, work closely with Washington,
“to bring down regimes considered insufficiently open to the strip-mining of national wealth and resources by Western elites. The aim, as in Ukraine, where Omidyar’s partnership with government was particularly active, is to replace the regimes with technocrats willing to stick the shock doctrine cattle prod to their own people.”
So Omidyar is very very pro “development”—that’s the kind of foreign funding that is totally Okay.
g) Foreign Funds are Okay in the Privatization of Water.
The NDA government in 2002 produced a National Water Policy that envisaged privatizatation of water, and not to be outdone, the UPA government prepared a document entitled “Draft National Water Policy (2012)” that is orientated towards promoting the wholesale privatization of water delivery and sanitation.
Says Olivier Petitjean:
French multinationals Suez and Veolia have been eager to present India as a new El Dorado for water privatization. The largely untapped India market, with its almost infinite potential, would allow them to renew with commercial expansion, restore their reputation, and prove that private water management—a model that has come under heavy criticism recently, both in France and abroad— is still a valid option in today’s world.
Veolia’s projects are running into trouble, but the idea of privatization of water and foreign investment in it has not been abandoned by either BJP or Congress.
Confederation of Indian Industries, the second of Modi’s two parents (the other being the RSS), is all for water privatization. A few days ago, Mukund Vasudevan, CII executive member of the National Water Committee, called for tiered water pricing across the country.
“If you manage pricing, you will automatically manage water supply”, he said, adding: “We are working with the government on how to create structure pricing. The pricing structure should cover all — industries, agriculture and consumers, even those below poverty line.”
While we awaited the election results, contemplating the possibility of Modi winning, the best case scenario I could envisage was a version of UPA 2, but activated out of its policy paralysis—that is, loot of common resources for corporate profit, unfettered by any democratic constraint whatsoever.
Looks like it’s UPA 2 PLUS the MSG Strategy of Managing Minorities as demonstrated in Gujarat.
It’s going to be a hard day’s night.
This was first published in Kafila.
1. Edited to add: Since the link to the Financial Times does not take you to the full article unless you register with them, I have now taken the relevant paragraph and quoted it directly.
Salil Tripathi in Mint: NGO: Three-lettered angels:
NGOs aren’t always right. Greenpeace’s campaign against genetically modified foods has Luddite overtones, and the European Union’s “precautionary principle” can stop scientific advancement. But in a democracy it is not a crime to hold such views and express them. People have the right to hold “wrong” views. The IB report is politically misguided, has factual inaccuracies, and does huge disservice to the kind of nation India is. By portraying NGOs as the nation’s enemies the report places India in the company of countries like Russia and China. Is that the company India wants to keep?
From the same Surjit Bhalla column in the Indian Express:
Some of the institutions that have allegedly received funding from Greenpeace include respected names, such as IIT-Delhi. Some of the Indian institutions mentioned in the IB report that agree with the FFNGO-recommended ban on Bt cotton are “the Parliamentary Standing Committee (August 9, 2012) and the Technical Expert Committee (TEC), appointed by the Supreme Court (October 7, 2012)”. The report also alleges that FFNGOs “are making efforts to debunk the Gujarat model of development”.
Surjit Bhalla in the Indian Express: No Proof Required: In defence of Greenpeace
In my opinion, the only legitimate issue, whether with foreign or domestic NGOs, or foreign or domestic individuals, or foreign or domestic institutions, is if any law is broken. Unfortunately, in its 21-page report, the IB is silent on laws being broken, but explosive in wearing its own righteous ideology on its ever so arrogant sleeve. The IB report is also tight-lipped on the large probability, or indeed reality, that several very Indian institutions, and indeed several UPA government officials and ministers, agreed wholeheartedly with the economy-stopping recommendations of the FFNGOs.
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