US NGOs funding India’s nuclear malcontent?

India’s ambitious atomic program is being stalled by widespread anti-nuclear protests across the country. The government says the discontent is partly fueled by US-backed local NGOs, and insists the power plants are vital for rocketing energy needs.

Indian authorities say American non-governmental organizations fund local non-profit bodies, which in turn promote protest.

India’s Home Ministry conducted investigations into NGOs in the Tamil province, revealing that several had been in receipt of foreign capital. Over a third of overall Indian NGO funding came from the US in 2011.

The ministry found evidence that local organizations receiving funds had been transporting people from surrounding villages to protests over the building of a joint Indian-Russian nuclear plant in Kudankulam.

Construction has been stalled for the past eight months due to the demos.

Following the investigation, the government shut down three organizations and put a further 77 on a global watch list in March alone.

While US funding is not illegal, authorities resent foreign interference with India’s nuclear activities.

"The atomic energy program has got into difficulties because these NGOs mostly, I think, based in the US, don't appreciate the need for our country to increase energy," Prime Minister Singh told an Indian science journal.

These remarks have been refuted by activists from the country’s People's Movement against Nuclear Energy (PMAN), which spearheads the anti-nuclear drive.

Indian political opposition have also appealed to the PM to back up his claims that local organizations were receiving US funding to cause trouble.

"I don't think the Prime Minister is targeting the American government. If the Prime Minister has any evidence against the NGOs, he should go and tell the people of Kudankulam instead of giving interviews to magazines," said a member of the Tamil communist party.

The Joint Indian-Russian nuclear power plant in the southern province of Tamil has been the center of anti-nuclear controversy for the past eight months, with local activists wary after Fukushima.

In spite of significant public outreach programs pioneered by the government and aimed at reassuring local communities, the project raises strong opposition.And with India’s multi-million-dollar energy industry just getting off the ground, many believe that foreign interests are looking to cash in on the country’s nuclear ambitions.

“There could be certain corporate interest involved, there could be corporate rivalry or the politics of nuclear energy at play, or larger geo-political concerns at play,” Manish Tewari, Congress Party spokesperson told RT.

Shaun Burie a member of the Friends of the Earth charity, echoed this sentiment, highlighting that India’s recent introduction to the nuclear market has awaked international interest.

“India is this great market, they would earn billions of dollars by exporting their technology to India,” he said to RT.

India currently has an ongoing treaty with Russia for the construction of two nuclear energy reactors in the province of Tamil that was laid down in 1988. Additionally it signed a contract with France in 2008 to commission the building of two power plants in the province of Maharashtra.