India 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 nuclear power stations.
The country’s decision 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 protests by villagers and activists.
A senior official in the office of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs had frozen the accounts of three non-government organizations.
The move came after Indian Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs V. Narayanasamy on Friday said the three groups were getting funds from the US 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 Press Trust of India news agency as saying.
Narayanasamy said the NGOs were violating government guidelines by not using the funds for the causes for which they were donated.
However, the groups denied the government’s allegations.
“We are being victimized by the government,” Father William Santhanam, a spokesman for the Tuticorin Diocese Association, one of the organizations targeted, said by telephone.
The 70-year-old aid group is based in Tuticorin, 100km 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 said. “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, the Indian prime minister blamed US non-profit groups for whipping up anti-nuclear demonstrations that have stalled the two new nuclear plants.
“The atomic energy program has got into difficulties because these NGOs, mostly I think based in the United States, do not appreciate the need for our country to increase the energy supply,” he told Science magazine.
Anti-nuclear campaigner S.P. Udayakumar also protested that his People’s Education for Action and Liberation was being singled out unfairly and strongly denied the group was using overseas funds to promote anti-nuclear protests.
Indian newspapers identified the third group targeted by the government as Good Vision, Nagercoil, but attempts to reach the organization 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 3 percent to 25 percent by 2050.
“The thinking segment of our population certainly is supportive of nuclear energy,” Singh told -Science magazine.