Lives versus livelihoods

| August 30, 2017

The Indian government has been investigating how Bloomberg Philanthropies funds local tobacco-control activities, according to a Reuters story relayed by the TMA and citing a note from last year drafted by the intelligence wing of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The note was said to have raised concerns that the Bloomberg foundation was funding campaigns to ‘target’ Indian tobacco businesses and ‘aggressively’ lobby against the sector.

It said that while the foundation’s ‘claimed intention to free India of tobacco cannot be faulted’ given tobacco’s known risks, the industry generated US$5 billion in revenue annually and provided a livelihood for millions of people.

The three-page note, which was reportedly reviewed by Reuters, said also that ‘foreign interests making foreign contributions…for purposes of lobbying against an established economic activity raises multiple concerns’, such as creating an ‘adverse economic impact’ on 35 million people.

Since 2014, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is said to have tightened surveillance of non-profit groups, saying they are acting against India’s national interests. Thousands of foreign-funded charities’ licenses have been canceled for misreporting donations.

The Reuters piece said that according to a senior government official aware of the investigation, the ministry’s note had been the reason for a rejection of a foreign funding license renewal of at least one Bloomberg-funded India charity in October 2016.

Some critics say the government is using the foreign funding law as a tool to silence non-profit groups which have raised concerns about the social costs of India’s rapid economic development.

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Category: Breaking News, Harm reduction

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