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Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai free to travel

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The Indian government which had stopped a Greenpeace activist from flying to the UK earlier this year told her today that she can fly anywhere she pleases, two months after Delhi High Court ruled in her favour.


Priya Pillai, a campaigner with the environmental organisation Greenpeace India, today had the “offload” stamp expunged from her passport by government officials who also told her that there are no more travel restrictions on her.


Indian immigration officials had on January 11 prevented Pillai from flying to the UK where she was to speak to British parliamentarians on how coal mining activities in India by a UK-based company were infringing on forest communities.


Although Pillai had a valid visa to the UK, she had been stopped at the airport, denied permission to board her flight and her passport had been stamped “offload”.


Delhi High Court had on March 12, in response to a petition filed by Pillai, ruled in her favour, saying her right to travel abroad “cannot be impeded only because it is not in sync with policy perspective of the executive”.


The court had observed that non-government organisations often take positions that are contrary to the policies formulated by the government of the day.


“That by itself, in my view, cannot be used to portray the petitioner’s action as being detrimental to national interest,” Justice Rajiv Shakder had observed in the ruling.


Pillai today said she had received a government order, hand-delivered at her residence on Monday, asking her to present herself at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office in Delhi to have her “offload” stamp expunged.


“I was told that there are no restrictions on my travel and that authorities at airports have been informed about this,” Pillai told The Telegraph.


However, she said, she had no immediate plans to travel to either the UK or elsewhere. But Greenpeace India continues to be in trouble with the government. The Union home ministry had last month suspended the environmental group’s access to foreign funds and blocked its domestic bank accounts, leaving the group with funds that would last only a month.


The home ministry has alleged that Greenpeace India violated the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), repeatedly misreported its funds, prejudicially affected the country’s interests and tried to influence government policies.


Greenpeace India had claimed last week that the home ministry had interpreted “unintentional clerical errors” as violations of the FCRA and had portrayed the environmental group’s campaigns for clean air, water and energy in India as anti-national activities.


Over the past decade, Greenpeace has campaigned against genetically-modified crops, coal mining projects, as well as raised issues relating to nuclear power projects.






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