Mumbai, June 23: “The so-called ‘development’ must not come at the cost of constitutional rights,” said prominent activist and Goldman Environment Awardee Prafulla Samantra at the press conference, which was organised on the last day of the three-day Peoples’ Convention on Infrastructure Financing, held prior to the third Annual General Meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Elaborating his argument, Samanthra asked who benefits from these ‘development’ and the bloodshed done in the name of it? He further said that the people do not want this ‘development’ and demanded that the bad loans be recovered from the rich at any cost to spend it on the welfare schemes.
Speaking on the occasion, Sreedhar Ramamurthy, International Chair, NGO Forum on Asian Development Bank, said that the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, by design, is meant for profit. Despite using words like clean and green in its mission, AIIB has financed heavily into the projects, which are detrimental to the environment. He added that the only word in AIIB’s mission that is true is ‘lean,’ as it has little staff and no accountability policy to safeguard the interests of the people.
Sharing the potential impacts of the Sagarmala projects with the media, Jesu Rathnam, Convenor of Coastal Action Network, said that the project, which intends to build massive cargo ports in violation of the Coastal Regulation Zones will displace millions of people and destroy their livelihood.
Sanjay MG, Editor of Andolan Magazine, emphasised that irrespective of the country, the money which comes to loot the natural resources of the country, violate human rights is unacceptable to us. Upping the ante he demanded that the AIIB and other international financial institutions must quit India.
Himshi Singh, a coordinator of the Working Group on International Finance Institutions, a network of movements, organisations and individuals to critically look at and evaluate the policies, programmes and investments of various International Finance Institutions (IFIs), said “in the political resolution adopted at the end of the Convention, delegates resolved to challenge the undemocratic and economically unsound functioning of IFIs and reaffirmed to push for people-centered alternatives in all sectors of the economy, and to advance an inclusive model of development in which finance and infrastructure support the vulnerable and the poor communities.”
The three-day convention was attended by different trade unions, networks of hawkers, fishworkers, slum dwellers, adivasis, dalits, farmers organisations and peoples movements. The convention was attended by senior activists, academics and financial analysists including Medha Patkar, economist Prof. Arun Kumar, financial analyst Sucheta Dalal, activists Ulka Mahajan, Com. Roma, Shaktiman Ghosh, Leo Colaco, T Peter, Dr Sunilam, Ram Wangkheirakpam, Leo Saldanha, Rajendra Ravi, Gabriele Dietrich, Surekha Dalvi, Sanjay M G, Ashok Chaudhary, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Bharat Patel, Jesu Rethinam, Seshagiri Rao, Meera Sanghamitra, Maglin Philomin, Soumya Dutta, Awadhesh Kumar, Umesh Nazir, Raju Bhise, Prof H.M. Deserda and many others.
Earlier in the convention, speaking at the inauguration function, eminent economist Professor Arun Kumar, questioned the development model pushed ahead by IFIs in the pretext of ‘development for all’ as their only aim is profit-oriented growth at any cost. He raised the pertinent question of ‘development for whom’.
“AIIB has created a superstructure, an ecosystem which acts as a complex web of shining terminologies and projects to attract investments, which actually is a smoke screen to hide the fact that there’s no human development happening” senior activist Medha Patkar said in her speech.
Raising concerns at the crackdown of activists by the government, she lamented, “Show us one state where the people opposing the projects have not been jailed to raise their concerns about the environment, and right to life and livelihood. Recently, people were fired upon in Thutthokodi, Tamil Nadu, when they demanded a pollution free environment to live”.
Financial analyst and journalist Sucheta Dalal said that the Indian banking system is at the verge of crisis, reeling under the mounting bad loans, caused by unfettered corporate loans. Referring to government’s announcement in the Parliament that Rs. 2.4 lakh crore bad loans are written off, she said that “ if farm loan waiver was proposed the world would have gone on a spin, while the loans of big corporations are written off and there isn’t a whimper.”
Senior activist Ulka Mahajan asked, “Is land a commodity to sell to forcefully silence farmers by giving them some compensation to build infrastructure project?” She added “the land feeds generations of people by providing food,” while reminding that it will be difficult to bring back the fertility of the land. “If raising issues of the marginalised is sedition, then we will continue to do it,” she emphasised.