The IB bats for the corporate sector

Mona Das

Mona Das teaches Political Science at Satyawati College, Delhi University.

The IB’s leaked report charges movements and activists with ‘anti-nationalism’ for conducting studies, screening documentaries and supporting campaigns

On the 39th anniversary of declaration of Emergency, it is pertinent to remember how Intelligence Bureau – which had lost its ground to RAW after its failure to provide pre-emptive intelligence on war with China – gained prominence during this period. IB would send daily as well as weekly reports on activities during the Emergency. With most opposition leaders in jail, it’s anybody’s guess what these reports would be all about. One suspects about routine happenings. In fact, it is amusing to read Uttam Sengupta’s piece in the latest issue of the Outlook (Vol. LIV, No.25) where he remembers how a local intelligence officer was supposedly being used by P.N. Haksar to gather intelligence inputs about his future son-in-law. These anecdotes apart, there is something really sinister in the reportage of the IB and its intended consequences.

IB Report CartoonThe latest leaked IB report true to its tradition of reporting the routine though labelled ‘secret’ has neither the drama attached to secrecy nor is it intelligent. The report titled “Concerted efforts by select foreign funded NGO’s to ‘take down’ Indian developmental projects”, has the ‘Un’-Intelligence Bureau clearly batting for the corporate sector. I say this because NGOs, people’s movements and individuals have been named and juxtaposed against the specific industrial houses and corporate groups. Barring NTPC with reference to Coal Fired Power projects no other Government agency or undertaking is sought to be protected from the ‘onslaught’ of civil society; instead there is named references to groups like Vedanta, POSCO, Jubilant, Aditya Birla Group, Essar etc. who are supposedly facing the brunt of ‘NGO activism’.

The report seeks to bring forth actions which are very much a part of the public domain and carried out in the open. The allegations when classified into precise categories actually can be zeroed down to conducting studies, screening documentaries and supporting campaigns.

The report mentions studies conducted by some of the most reputed educational institutions in India. These technical-empirical studies are sought to be delegitimized not by countering the data but simply by reporting it, secretly to some big brother keeping a watch. The studies mentioned are those on radiation leakage from Rawatbhata plant (p.7), health impact study in Mahaan coal block area, Singrauli by TISS (p.8), IIT Delhi study on diversion of irrigation water to Coal Fired Power Projects (p.8), technical report of GreenPeace and Urban Emissions and Conservation Action Trust on deaths due to health problems arising from existing CFPPs (p.8). These studies themselves are seen as subversive actions.

Whereas, while discussing the ban/moratorium on Bt. Brinjal – recommended by the Supreme Court-appointed Technical Expert Committee – IB is willing to give credence to the findings of “pro GM researchers, bio-tech companies” which according to the report “have not been able to verify any (such) deaths raising questions on credibility and integrity of reports generated by (these) activists.” (p.11) The ban/moratorium is seen as facilitated by activists through newspaper articles, social media, networking etc. The point to be noted is that this clearly is an attack on the entire gamut of civil and political rights including freedom of speech and expression of mass media as well. For IB it does not remain an issue of being pro or anti-GMO’s. Any ‘adverse’ reporting is seen as a roadblock to ‘development’.

They make a note of massive growth in cotton yield due to Bt. Cotton. But this is only one side of the story what about hundreds and thousands of debt ridden farmers committing suicides in the same Bt. cotton growing Vidharba area? That is not even mentioned; were these farm suicides also foreign funded? The IB needs to explain.

The report at the outset admits, even though indirectly, that the issues raised by these groups are “people centric”. If these issues are people centric, then why such disdain for issues and those who raise them? Can the IB deny the reality of submergence that people face in Narmada Valley, or the killing impact of Uranium waste in Jaduguda, or fear of extinction of indigenous knowledge as well as belief systems in Niyamgiri hills.

Since the IB is aware that it does not have a solid allegation against the campaigners as all their activities are within the legal domain, they bring in existence of “maps” to add an element of drama and conspiracy. There are two references to maps, one regarding nuclear power plants and the other about coal fired power projects.

The report says:

“The larger conspiracy (regarding nuclear energy) was unravelled when a German national provided Udayakumar a scanned map of all nuclear plants and uranium mining locations in India. The map included contact details of 50 Indian anti-nuclear activists revealing an intricate nework aimed to ‘take down’ India’s nuclear programme through NGO activism.”(p. 1)

Such maps marking nuclear power plants, Uranium mines or coal-fired power plants are one click away on google. As for the handwritten contact details of 50 Indian anti-nuclear activists, it only requires common sense to know that a map sourced from a public forum will not have printed contact details, they will have to be handwritten.

And who are these fifty people? Are they part of some underground network? The report says, “the activities of all 50 activists were scrutinized. It was revealed that 28 activists were well known anti-nuclear campaigners and 22 were social activists, journalists or academics in the process of associating with anti-nuclear activism…At least 11 of activists were frequent foreign travellers.” (p. 6) But where exactly is the conspiracy? This is no secret group, these are people whose arguments opposing nuclear energy is out in the public domain. The fact that these activists, journalists are united in their opposition to nuclear energy does not point to existence of any conspiratorial network.

One of the funniest and the most ‘un’intelligent allegation against SP Udayakumar is that “In July 2010, Udayakumar received an unsolicited contract from Kirwan Institute for Study of Race and Ethnicity at the Ohio State University, USA as a consultant on “Group, Race, Class and Democracy issues through NGO’s”. (p. 4) The report mentions that $38,720 was paid to him as consultancy fee between July 2010-2012, over a period of two years, for fortnightly reports. Any scholar who has negotiated consultancy deals would know that it is not a huge amount by any stretch of imagination. However, the problem that IB has with this consultancy is that “These reports were significant in the fact that they were very brief lists of three general articles or books purported to have been read in the past fortnight, none relating to anti-nuclear activism, his main interest” (p. 4).

IB probably does not know enough about SP Udayakumar. Just by way of information, Udayakumar is a Ph.D. in Political Science and also worked for the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota for three years until 2001. Therefore, his consultancy and reading books on non-nuclear issues is perfectly explainable. Even if he did not have this essential qualification, IB cannot determine one’s area of interest.

However, can the IB explain its sinister designs in making such non-sensical baseless allegations?

What is IB trying to report? The answer is crystal clear to anyone who even takes a cursory glance at the report. This report as well as its well-planned leakage is nothing but a ploy to intimidate citizens who have challenged the corporate driven ‘developmental’ Indian state. Anyone and everyone who challenges this model of development is bound to be labelled anti-national. It is not so much an attack on these few individuals and agencies as it is an attempt to muzzle the voice which questions the state. Indian state wants to treat its citizens like subjects. However, our governments have to be made accountable for all their actions; whether it’s the model of development or methods of intimidation like the present leakage of a secret report.

(Full report present here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/229724297/Report-of-IB-on-NGO-s)