The End of Greenpeace

Kerala is in the middle of its own dog at war after it was announced, or supposedly announced that the Kerala State government was planning to cull up to 200,000 stray dogs. As you might imagine, animal rights campaigners were quickly up in arms and proposed a boycott Kerala campaign unless the state backed down. In fact, there is no certainty that the Kerala State government will indeed cull the stray dogs and some are arguing that such a cull would be against the law. Alternatively there is a mooted plan to sterilise dogs as another the solution to the problem. This has been successful in Jaipur in northern India where a long-running campaign to eradicate rabies has also successfully managed the problem of stray dogs. Experts have said that you need to sterilise up to 70% of the stray dog population to achieve long-term success. The problem facing Kerala will certainly be finding the commitment to a long-term strategy rather than a knee-jerk response to some publicity.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Kerala. The situation could be read as simply one more chapter of a wider narrative regarding the place of nature in India. The central governments widely publicised offensive against the charity Greenpeace and their attempt to label climate change and nature activists as traitors has started a wider conversation on the direction of Indian democracy.

The battle between democracy and the Indian state is a proxy battle over the fate and direction of development in the Indian subcontinent. The new federal government is seen as committed to economic development at what ever cost and that includes the commissioning of new coal mines and power stations regardless of the impact to the environment. Greenpeace is opposed to this policy and in typical Greenpeace fashion has made a lot of noise about it. The labelling of a Greenpeace activist as anti-national is a worrying sign of how the Indian government plans to stifle dissent.

There is of course a wider and much more challenging problem that faces India in the same way that it faces other countries that are presently developing their economies at a great pace. The challenge is how to keep the pace of development at breakneck speed and it will be obvious that long enquiries into the potential environmental impact of new industrial plant goes against that policy.

The most worrying aspect of this all, setting aside environmental questions is the way that the new Indian government seems to have a suspicious and critical attitude to anything that smacks of foreign. Over 9000 non-governmental organisations have had their operating licences rescinded and others, including such reputable charities as the Ford foundation have been placed on a watchlist which means that any money received from overseas must first be cleared by the home ministry. As the Guardian newspaper pointed out, what they described as a simmering suspicion of foreign influences is written deep into the government’s nationalist DNA.

No organisation has had as much focus as Greenpeace. State auditors have twice visited the offices try to spot irregularities in its books and a number of its foreign members have been refused entry into India, tax invoices have been levied accusing the charity of being in arrears. A secret report alleged that the behaviour of these non-governmental organisations had the effect of dragging down India’s growth by 2 to 3% annually, although no mathematics for this claim was offered up.

The present Indian government has a starchily nationalistic quality about it: they may be political toughs but there was also a somewhat prissy quality to them. It is part of the pendulum of Indian politics that one minute welcomes foreign engagement and then at the next minute repudiates it. What makes this government somewhat different is that it is happy to welcome foreign capital so long as that capital comes with no social or environmental commitments attached. For many poor Indians, the chance to own a fridge or car is a great deal more important to them than vague and ambiguous criticisms of policy. That’s the corruption entailed is corrosive over the long term means very little for people whose main concern is today and tomorrow.

Read the Guardian’s Long Read on Greenpeace in India

Sholto Ramsay

Boss, motivator and general eccentric with a deep love of Kerala and India who just wants everyone to enjoy an amazing and life enhancing experience of Kerala.

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