India moves to tighten controls on foreign funding for Greenpeace

NEW DELHI, June 19 Thu Jun 19, 2014 12:49pm EDT

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NEW DELHI, June 19 (Reuters) - India has asked the central bank to tighten controls on moving funds from abroad into Greenpeace's accounts, intensifying concerns that the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be tough on foreign-funded activist groups.

Modi scored a landslide election victory last month, vowing to kickstart the country's slowing economy, but his critics see him as unfriendly to opponents of big business.

His government has asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to obtain its permission before releasing funding from Netherlands-based Greenpeace International and the U.S.-based Climate Works Foundation, both contributors to Greenpeace India, a home ministry spokesman told Reuters on Thursday.

Greenpeace India receives about 60 percent of its funding from donors in India and about 38 percent from Greenpeace International, Divya Raghunadan, programme director at Greenpeace India, said. The ClimateWorks Foundation accounts for less than one percent of funding.

No one at the RBI was immediately available to comment on whether it was bound to comply with the ministry's request, which could create a major bureaucratic hurdle for the group.

"Right now, we have no real way of knowing what this means for us or why it's being done," Raghunadan said, noting that the ministry had not officially told the group about the move.

An Intelligence Bureau report leaked last week said Greenpeace and other lobby groups were hurting economic progress by campaigning against power projects, mining and genetically modified food. Greenpeace denies this and has called the allegations an attempt to silence dissent.

In a high-profile campaign at the start of this year, Greenpeace activists dressed in tiger suits scaled the Mumbai headquarters of the Essar Group, an Indian resources conglomerate, and unfurled a banner declaring "We kill forests."

The activists were protesting against plans by Mahan Coal Ltd, jointly owned by Essar and Hindalco Industries Ltd , to mine coal in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. (Editing by Louise Ireland)

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