Greenpeace India has asked its 340 employees to prepare for the organisation to shut down in a month, unless the Home Ministry unfreezes its bank accounts.

The environmental NGO said in a press release on Monday that it has “has been left with funds for staff salaries and office costs that will last for just about a month” and that it will not be able to continue with its campaigns “which strived to represent the voice of the poor on issues of sustainable development, environmental justice and clean, affordable energy”.

On April 9, the government blocked the NGO's bank accounts and asked it to explain why its registration should not be cancelled, claiming that Greenpeace had “prejudicially affected the economic interest of the state”. It also stopped it from receiving funds from abroad. The order was based on a Home Ministry report prepared in September, though some of the reasons for the crackdown listed in the internal document bordered on the absurd.

The NGO says that the accounts contain donations from 77,000 Indian citizens.

In its press released, Greenpeace described the government order as “strangulation by stealth”. It asked Home Minister Rajnath Singh “to stop using arbitrary penalties and admit that he is trying to shut Greenpeace India down because of its successful campaigns”.

The government’s decision has been widely criticised by others in the development sector. A letter  by 180 prominent civil society activists claimed that the government's decision to block the accounts appears to be an attempt to signal that opposition to its developmental policies will not be accepted ‒ "even when these are proving to be ecologically unsustainable and socially unjust".

It declared, “These are dangerous signs for the future of democracy in India.”

While Greenpeace India is preparing to challenge the government decision in court, the organisation said that “the legal process could extend well beyond June 1 ‒- when cash reserves for salaries and office costs will run dry”.

The Greenpeace release included a statement from campaigner Priya Pillai, who had been prevented from travelling abroad until the ban was quashed by the Delhi High Court in March. “I fear for my own future, but what worries me much more is the chilling message that will go out to the rest of Indian civil society and the voiceless people they represent,” she is quoted as saying. “The MHA has gone too far by blocking our domestic bank accounts, which are funded by individual Indian citizens. If Greenpeace India is first, who is next?”