New Delhi: Greenpeace on Friday accused the Home Ministry of running an "intimidation campaign" against the NGO and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take note of it, saying such actions tarnish India's international standing as a country which respects free speech and democracy.
In an open letter from Executive Directors of Greenpeace India and US, hours before Modi's speech at the United Nations today, the NGO said these actions serve as a "distraction" and and raise "serious questions" about government's commitment to democracy and environmental issues.
The letter also urged Modi to ask President Barack Obama to "reconsider" US administration's recent actions which "significantly undermine" the fight against climate change.
"In the same spirit of constructive cooperation, may we also ask you to take note of the campaign of intimidation that the Indian Home Ministry is currently engaged in against Greenpeace India and other legitimate NGOs," the letter stated.
"The actions of some officials in the MHA and the resultant shrinking of the space for constructive dialogue have served to tarnish India's international standing as a country that respects free speech and democracy."
"At a time when we need to focus instead on the imperatives of the environmental issues facing us all, these actions serve merely as a distraction and raise serious questions about your government's commitment to democracy and to addressing environmental issues," the letter, written by Greenpeace India's Interim Executive Director Vinuta Gopal and Greenpeace US's Executive Director Annie Leonard, said.
The letter also said that the UN Special Rapporteur had recently criticised India's actions in suppressing civil society and "vilifying" voices of dissent.
The NGO alleged that over the last year, the Home Ministry had frozen Greenpeace India's bank accounts, prevented its staff (including Indian citizens) from entering and leaving the country and cancelled the group's license to receive donations from abroad.
"On the very eve of the Prime Minister's address to the United Nations, the organisation's primary bank account was frozen once again denying Greenpeace access to donations received directly from its Indian supporters," it alleged.
Noting that collaboration between government and civil society is "essential" to secure a bright future for India, the NGO said that it looked forward to working with the Indian government on common objectives of ensuring clean, affordable renewable energy for all.
Greenpeace also lent its support for India's ambitious new renewable energy goals and hoped that Modi will be able to secure support from global partners including the US, civil societies and investors to realise them.
"We congratulate you on setting new and ambitious renewable energy targets and urge a focus on decentralised renewable energy as the fastest most cost-effective way to tackle India's energy poverty challenge... We hope you will secure much-needed support from global partners, civil society and investors including the US - to realise these renewable energy goals," the letter said.
The letter notes three issues that Obama should address to improve US leadership in addressing climate change - the US case under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules against India's domestic content requirements for the solar sector, Arctic oil drilling and federal coal leasing in the US.
"Under President Obama's stewardship, the US has recently made several steps in the right direction - announcing a Clean Power Plan (to restrict emissions from coal power plants) and new fuel efficiency standards for the transport sector.
"However as we hope you (Modi) will be able to impress upon him (Obama), these steps by themselves are woefully inadequate when compared to the scale of the problem facing us and the responsibility that the US bears for the problem of climate change ," the letter said.
Greenpeace India had yesterday accused the government of launching a "fresh assault" against it, claiming that one of its bank accounts had been frozen which was in "violation" of the stay granted by Madras High Court.