Govt freezes aid groups’ assets over N-protests
AFP NEW DELHI THE government said on Saturday it had frozen the assets of three non-profit groups it alleges were diverting foreign aid funds to fuel protests against plans to build two atomic power stations.
The country’s move to construct two giant nuclear power stations in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and one in the western state of Maharashtra has been thrown into disarray following the protests by villagers and activists.
A senior officer at the prime minister’s office told AFP that the home ministry had frozen the accounts of three non-government organisations.
The move came after a minister in the federal government, V Narayanasamy, on Friday said the three aid groups were getting funds from the United States and Scandinavian countries that were being used for anti-nuclear protests.
“These NGOs were receiving funds from foreign countries for social service causes like helping the physically handicapped and eradication of leprosy but these (funds) were used for anti-nuclear protests,” he was quoted by the PTI news agency as saying. Narayanasamy said three NGOs were violating government guidelines by not using the funds for the causes for which they were receiving money.
But the groups denied the government’s allegations.
“We are being victimised by the government,” Father William Santhanam, spokesman of the Tuticorin Diocese Association, one of the organisations targeted, told AFP by telephone.
The 70-year-old aid group is in Tuticorin, 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu where the government plans to build two 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors with Russian help.
“The government has frozen our bank accounts and they accuse us of supporting anti-nuclear campaigns.
This is not true,” Santhanam told AFP.
“We use our funds to maintain schools and parishes. Every penny we spend is used for the welfare of the Roman Catholics living in the region.” In an interview published on Friday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed US non-profit groups for whipping up anti-nuclear demonstrations that have stalled the two new atomic plants.
“The atomic energy programme has got into difficulties because these NGOs, mostly I think based in the United States, don’t appreciate the need for our country to increase the energy supply,” he told Science magazine.
Indian newspapers identified the third group targeted by the government as Good Vision, Nagercoil, but attempts to reach the organisation were unsuccessful.
India’s fast-growing economy is heavily dependent on coal, but the government hopes to raise the proportion of power produced from nuclear sources from less than three percent to 25 percent by 2050.
“The thinking segment of our population certainly is supportive of nuclear energy,” Singh told Science magazine.