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Highlight the Impacts on Key Sectors in India During IMF-WB 2020 Annual Meetings

Date: 12 October, 2020

New Delhi: People’s Movements, Civil Society Groups, and concerned citizens are coming together to protest the World Bank’s policies, interventions and impacts which negatively impacted the Indian economy as a whole, and in particular in some key sectors, in a week-long protest, “World Without World Bank – Action Week India” from October 12-16. The purpose behind the protest week is to expose the Bank’s hidden agendas to push neo-liberalization and a lack of focus on either inclusive or sustainable support for the countries and people battling marginalisation.

The IMF-Bank is having its 2020 Annual General Meetings (virtual) from October 12-18, 2020.  

The World Bank Group continues to be the lead Multilateral Development Bank (MDB) defining development and reshaping policies and economies to fit the neoliberal agenda. COVID-19 has provided the Bank a window to reinvent its relevance through support to countries in fighting the pandemic. This support is coming through development policy loans which are silently pushing for policy reforms. The Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, now tainted and halted for fudging of data, has played a devastating role in watering down environmental and labour laws in India and elsewhere. The Bank’s World Development Report for 2021, which sets forth the interest and direction of its investments, points towards commodification of data. 

India’s engagement with the World Bank dates back to several decades back with the first lending in ‘50s for the railway project. Later in 1968 a huge protest against the then World Bank President Robert McNamara for his role in the Vietnam war as the Defence Secretary of US, when he visited Kolkata led to his return from the airport itself, without being allowed to step out of it due to protests.

The late ‘80s and early ‘90s witnessed protests against World Bank lending to Narmada dam and later Singrauli power projects, directly resulting in World Bank’s withdrawal from Narmada dam and constitution of Inspection Panel, the first ever accountability mechanism in any MDB.

In mid-2000s, government tried to nominate WB staff to the Planning Commission of India, which the Left parties vehemently opposed and thwarted.

A number of protests happened during the decades of 90s and 2000s. Some of the significant ones are against Vishnugad Pipalkoti and Allain Duhangan hydro projects, Mumbai Urban Transport Project, struggles against the privatisation of health, water and power sectors.

The decade following that saw a valiant struggle against the power project in Kutch Gujarat – the Tata Mundra project. Filing a case in United States against the private sector arm of the World Bank – the International Finance Corporation – resulted in the Supreme Court of US ruling that World Bank does not enjoy absolute immunity from law suits, taking the efforts to hold MDBs accountable to a different level and giving an opportunity to communities around the globe to hold World Bank legally liable for the damages causing to them because of irresponsible lending.

The Bank continues to grow its influence in India through state partnerships impacting local governance structures. They pursue new and what seem to be more lucrative territories promoting privatisation and commodification of data, coastal regions, large renewables, large infrastructure, agriculture, health, etc. with little regard to impacts on communities, their rights over resources and to human rights. With the approach of maximising finance for development, there is a deeper connection of Development Finance Institutions with private financial entities making funding more complex and difficult to trace. These institutions despite claims of responsible funding and poverty alleviation continue to operate with lack of accountability and transparency.  

During the week-long protest Indian groups plan to organise a media campaign, online seminars and meetings to highlight the impacts of  the World Bank funding  in various sectors in India including health, agriculture, infrastructure, energy, labour, environment and on the Bank’s agenda of neoliberal policy reforms.

For more details: www.wgonifis.net

Issued by Working Group on International Financial Institutions.

Contact:

Anuradha Munshi – anuradha@cenfa.org / 9792411555

Nishank – nishank@cenfa.org / 9910137929

Working Group on International Finance Institutions (WGonIFIs) is a collective of organisations and individuals in India to critically look at and evaluate the policies, programmes and investments of various International Finance Institutions (IFIs), and joining the celebration of the people and communities across the world in resisting them.

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