NEW DELHI  - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed US non-profit groups in an interview published Friday for whipping up anti-nuclear demonstrations that have stalled two new atomic plants.

Singh told the American journal “Science” that “the atomic energy programme has got into difficulties because these NGOs, mostly I think based in the US, don’t appreciate the need for our country to increase the energy supply.”

India’s fast-growing economy is heavily dependent on coal, but the government hopes to raise the proportion of power produced from nuclear sources from less than three per cent to 25 per cent by 2050.

“The thinking segment of our population certainly is supportive of nuclear energy,” Singh said during the interview in which he also criticised foreign NGOs for encouraging opposition to genetically modified food.

The groups are “often funded from the US and Scandinavian countries” and “are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces,” he said, according to a copy of the article posted on his website.

India’s plans to construct two massive atomic power stations in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and the western state of Maharashtra have been thrown into disarray following angry protests led by local villagers and activists.

The government was forced to stall its Tamil Nadu programme to build two 1000-megawatt nuclear reactors in Koodankulam with Russian help, leading Russia’s ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, to voice frustration.

“We cannot allow our scientists to remain idle endlessly. For months together, they are without work,” Kadakin was reported to have said earlier this month by local media.

Global anti-nuclear environmental group Greenpeace, founded by a group of American and Canadian activists in the 1970s, defended itself against Singh’s allegations.

“The anti-nuclear movement in India isn’t a one-day wonder. It’s absolutely a grassroots-driven issue. It matters to people,” Karuna Raina of Greenpeace told AFP.

Singh also backed genetically modified crops to increase farm yields, despite a decision by his government in 2010 to halt plans to introduce its first genetically modified vegetable.

An editorial in the Mint daily newspaper said Friday the prime minister’s comments on foreign NGOs and their impact on nuclear and agricultural policies are “indicative of the deep crisis of governance facing India today”.