New Delhi: Beginning with Workers Day, People’s movements and civil society organisations from across India will begin holding over 100 actions of protest in 21 states of India between May 1 – 7, 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). These actions will highlight the gross human rights violations, loss of livelihoods, and environmental destruction caused by projects promoted by ADB and other International Financial Institutions (IFIs) who pursue a paradigm of socially and environmentally destructive development. All of this is done using public money which enriches further the rich nations who hold much of the stakes in ADB and other IFIs.
Through the first week of May, organisations will hold multiple programmes to expose the ADB’s neo-liberal capitalist model of economic growth, which borrows from the public exchequer to enrich private corporations, is a failed developmental paradigm. In addition, these actions will raise systemic issues related to the utter lack of accountability and transparency in projects financed or supported by ADB and other IFIs.
Shaktiman Ghosh, General Secretary of the National Hawkers Federation, a trade union representing economically deprived trading communities in several states, said, “The model of development pushed ahead by ADB resulted in the loss of livelihood and forced eviction of street vendors in several cities, thus pushing people into poverty. Thus condradicting ADB’s stated motto of ‘fighting poverty’. In urban areas, the hawkers are the worst hit ones. However with increasing privatisation of services, even the middle class will not be spared.” (See his video message: https://youtu.be/LguAaY4Lwvo)
Programmes being organized during 1-7 May 2017 to coincide with ADB’s 50th anniversary celebrations in Japan include protests, public talks or lecture series, web chats, radio talk shows, etc. All this is to highlight the serious impacts of ADB’s lending programmes. The Bank which lent a little over $3 billion during its first decade, has lent $123 billion during the last decade. Thus, the damage caused by the Bank’s extremely warped economic, social environmental policies is significant.
These programmes are spread all over India, from Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, and from Mundra in Gujarat to Dibrugarh in Assam. While Peoples’ Forum Against IFIs, a platform of people’s movements and civil society organisations working on the ill effects of international financing, is coordinating these 100+ events, the actions are all organised by local organisations in a manner which is relevant to them: to highlight their struggles / issues and seek transparency and accountability in IFI funded projects. In fact, their slogan for the past decade has been “Better Off Without the ADB”.
“ADB needs to seriously review its push for hydro-projects in India, particularly in the Himalayas, all done in the name of clean energy program, given significantly adverse environmental and social fallouts of such projects, thus indicating a complete failure of the Bank’s safeguard policies in this context,” said Manshi Asher ofHimdhara – Environment Research and Action Collective. “Further, the escalation of costs in these projects has put a question mark on the financial feasibility of hydro power projects,” she added. (Video message:https://youtu.be/iYkVNQFrDgI)
ADB’s investments resulting in undermining local governance bodies and other traditional institutions has come to the fore time and again. “The arrogance with which the destruction of cultures and communities by way of bulldozing our rights and the condescending belief that we indigenous peoples of the NorthEast are uniformed enough to be auctioning our rights and our way of living to the highest ‘development’ bidder like the IFIs such as ADB, needs to be done away with. We are not stupid and we will do our best to protect our land and culture!” exhorted Ratika Yumnam of Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur.
Highlighting the disproportinate influence IFIs have on policies of other lending agencies, Leo Saldanha ofEnvironment Support Group, Bangalore said, “ADB has always played the role of influencing a form of development that ensures revenue from loan recipient countries flows out to the coffers of countries that control the bank’s stocks. For instance, ADB pushed for Metro projects in India. After these super-expensive mega projects were well on their way, but in no manner really serving the real need – of redressing public transport pressures, the bank backed out. By then, the pathways had already been paved for Japan Bank and JICA to step in to finance the Bangalore Metro project. Interestingly, the project has had 300% cost over-runs and is yet not functional. Meanwhile, the entire city has been reduced to a mess of what it was before: Bangalore, once, India’s ‘garden city’, but not any more!”
Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (Tata Mundra) a $4bn, 4000 MW coal based thermal power plant in Kutch Gujarat is one the projects ADB is co-financing, causing extensive damage to people and environment. As confirmed by its own accountability mechanism, Compliance Review Panel, the project has violated ADB’s policies on consultation with communities. Besides, the sanctioning of the project was based on erroneous social impact assessment. As a consequence of this project the fish catch in the region has reduced drastically, threatening the livelihood of thousands of fishworkers.
“Our plea to ADB to restore the livelihood of fish workers has fallen on deaf ears. While they are celebrating 50 years of the Bank’s existence, the fish workers in Mundra are struggling to meet their ends,” said Bharat Patel, General Secretary of Machimar Adhikaar Sangharsh Sangathan. (Video message:https://youtu.be/3OePpbHqKIo)
Through these 100+ actions, people’s movements and other CSOs are demanding that ADB must mend its ways of lending, and become transparent and accountable to people in whose name they run their business. Failing which, people will be left with no option but to strengthen their struggles, braving increasingly repressive laws that is aimed at curbing Right to dissent, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.