NEW DELHI — The U.S. ambassador to India on Wednesday criticized the government’s clampdown on nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign funding, saying it could have a “chilling effect” on civil society in the world’s largest democracy.
In recent months, the government has blocked the bank accounts of the environmental group Greenpeace India, stopped an activist from flying abroad to lobby against coal mining in the country and put the Ford Foundation’s donations here under new scrutiny.
“I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by NGOs operating in India,” Richard Verma, the U.S. envoy, said in a speech in the Indian capital. “Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nearly year-old government is determined to boost economic growth and build infrastructure by removing common hurdles in the way of doing business in India, such as land-acquisition and environmental issues. Analysts say the government considers the activities of many environmental groups, including Greenpeace, detrimental to India’s aspirations to be a global economic powerhouse.