A new report, prepared by the advocacy group Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), New Delhi, has taken strong exception to the World Bank refusing to share its independent assessment of the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), floated by the Andhra Pradesh government in order to build the new capital.

Conducted by Geoffrey Payne in early 2018, the World Bank documents “regarding this are not seen anywhere”, and the communities are sure that most of these assessments are “biased, arbitrary and deceptive”, the report, titled “Looking at the Environmental, Social and Human Rights Violations of Amaravati Capital City Project, India (2014-2019)”, complains.

Of the $750 million to be spent on Amaravati Capital Region, the World Bank loan is to the tune of $300 million, and LPS is meant to (i) provide quality infrastructure to ensure that global knowledge is built into technical designs of major infrastructure investments; (ii) supporting the setup of an institutional structure that can lead to the establishment of an empowered and effective local government; and, (iii) supporting an inclusive benefit sharing system for all residents of the region.

While LPS is likely to adversely affect 140,000 people, says the CFA report, the World Bank has “confirmed the completion of its appraisal vide its letter dated January 7, 2019 addressed to the Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh without checking the authenticity of the assessment documents and information presented in those documents that support this loan, as well as without proper public consultation”.

Wonders CFA, “Project affected people have been constantly informed that the project is in the initial stages of preparation, but how the bank management could complete project appraisal without sharing final assessment reports?”

It underlines, “As the bank management has now given its appraisal for the project by jointly collaborating with Government of Andhra Pradesh (GoAP), it is necessary to ascertain the correctness of those documents and assessment reports.”

According to CFA, during its visit, the World Bank’s inspection panel interacted with indigenous peoples, including organizations such as the Capital Region Farmers Federation (CRFF) and People’s Watch of Andhra Pradesh (PWAP), which submitted a number of comments, suggestions, concerns with regard to environmental and social management framework of the project.

“But so far there are no responses have been received”, the report regrets, this is happening at a time when “the project-level Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) totally failed to address the concerns that were raised in various forums. None of their concerns and suggestions was taken into account.”

For instance, says CFA, “During farmers’ last meeting with the World Bank personnel and the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) on 23 October 23 in Vijayawada at Vasavya Mahila Mandal, which is GRM premises, they were quite reluctant to consider any of these concerns, and suggestions.”

Under the LPS, returnable plots have been allocated, but, says the CFA report, “Development around those is zero. No beneficiary till date has taken physical position of their returnable plots. There is no choice to 2nd party (farmer) as Government (1st party) always dictates the terms. The 2nd party is unable to approach court or for other legal assistance. Unfortunately, this is the reality of LPS in Amaravati.”

It asks, “How could farmer surrender their rights for something that does not exist on ground, even after 4 years of the capital city project?”

While the World Bank documents talk of “community engagement and monitoring to address potential coercion and other implementation issues”, says CFA, “There are a number of gaps.” For instance, the Citizens Advisory Committee has been formed without including in it members of the project affected people.

In fact, says CFA, “APCRDA has filled this committee with members who are some way related with current ruling party (Telugu Desam Party) of Andhra Pradesh Government. What can a common man expects from this Citizens Advisory Committee?”

Then, the World Bank stresses on engaging “a local independent party to obtain additional information on any potential coercion/ engage independent local professionals to visit affected villages to monitor concerns and feedback”. Yet, the GRM, has “totally failed to engage vulnerable groups to restore livelihoods of those impacted by the project.”

In fact, says CFA, “Many incidents of coercion have been reported since January 2018. There are several 22 atrocities that were committed by the GoAP and its police force. One such gory incident on Nandigam Suresh could be seen in this video with his own explanation.”

As for the non-LPS sections, says the report, both APCRDA and the World Bank have “failed to assess” the livelihood restoration for landless agricultural labourers.

Thus, a pension of Rs 2,500 is being given to landless labourers, but this is being distributed once every 2 to 3 months. Also, the amount is not sufficient as the costs per family increased to INR 12,000 per month after the announcement of the Capital. There is no assurance that, it would continue after the State elections in 2019.

Then, says CFA, the employment guarantee scheme had to be applied to one person per family in the capital region, irrespective of LPS farmers, non-LPS farmers, landless labourers, or Dalits. But this has not been realized till date. The government assured daily employment and fixed wage through the establishment of nurseries, but these are not functioning anymore, except the one at Venkatapalem.

Then, there was the scheme of interest free loan of up to Rs 25 lakh to all the poor families for self-employment, which has not at all implemented as there is “no facility to access interest-free loans for setting up enterprises till date”.

The article, first published on the Sierra Magazine, can be accessed here.

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