By Krishnakant et al*
Gujarat groups strongly oppose exclusion of civil society groups in the state and country for the lead up event for Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank’s (AIIB’s) third AGM on urban development in Ahmedabad. The exclusion of urban poor groups and civil society shows a trend of opacity, non-transparency and indifference to the concerns of various sections of society which inhabit a city.
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) the newest of the Multilateral Development Banks Headquartered in Beijing will hold its second Annual Governors Meeting in Mumbai on June 25-26 in Mumbai. India is hosting a number of host country seminars across the country of which the seminar on urban development taking place in Ahmedabad on 19th and 20th of April. The organisers of the conference have not extended invitations to civil society organisations / social movements who are actively working for equitable, inclusive and sustainable cities.
The issue of urban development is not about creating investment opportunities for corporates but about securing the rights and livelihoods of people who are living in those cities whose voices are not being considered in the planning of cities development. A large number of questions are being raised by various groups across the country regarding massive investments which at one hand will create huge public debt and on the other hand does not ease living for the masses living in those cities and to the contrary, displace, disposes and derecognise their genuine voices.
A large number of questions have been raised with regards to AIIB as to their perspective on urban development and to the rights of the people who inhabit them. The support to Amravati state capital by AIIB without considering the effects of such massive development project on the environment and livelihoods of the people and without addressing their problems is a case in the point. AIIB could not put together a comprehensive complaints mechanism of its own and policies that will guide their investments and have started funding projects.
About 61 groups across the world including a large number from India have in a statement expressed their concerns about shifting the decision making power to approve projects to that of the Bank Management instead of the Executive Board who are accountable to constituent Governments. Concerns have also been raised regarding AIIB’s proposed investment into National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, which will further reduce the transparency of how this money will be spend in high risk investments without taking proper accountability. We also urge AIIB to halt all investments until all environmental, social and transparency policies are approved through a thorough process of consultation including CSO’s and affected communities.
AIIB being a south led multilateral development bank should have its ears and eyes close to the ground feeling the pain of displacement and dispossession rather than funding projects that goes against their own said mandate of clean, lean and green. The peoples movements will keep a close eye on AIIBs priorities, policies and investments in the country and how they respond to peoples voices.
Groups across the country will also assemble in Mumbai from June 21 to 23, demanding accountability and to reiterate their vision of an equitable society differing from the versions of international financial institutions which opens the planet and people for further destruction.
Finance driven unequitable and unsustainable projects have posed in many problems to the Society and the Government, State of Gujarat is no exception to this. The struggles and resistance movements in various parts of Gujarat are living examples of Non-democratic and consultant driven Urban Development, which has only led to ad-hocism and replaced proper planning processes:
- Mandal-Becharaji SIR./ Dholera SIR.
- Vadodara – Mumbai Expressway.
- Challenge to Urban plans in cities like Surat, Navsari, Bardoli, Morbi.
- Mumbai – Ahmedabad Bullet Train.
- Ahmedabad Metro.
- Ultra Mega Power Plant in Mundra (Tata & Adani).
The Government response to attract the International Finance has been one of undermining all the democratic process, twisting the policies and laws to suit the Financers (Ease of Doing Business) and Amendments to several important laws with far reaching negative consequences on the Public:
- Gujarat Amendment to the RFCTLARR, 2013.
- SIR Act 2009.
- Amendments through Rules in PESA Act.
- District and Metropolitan Planning Committees, under the 74th Constitutional Amendment (Article 243 ZD and 243 ZE)
- Amendments to the Panchayat Act 1993.
- Amendments to Tenancy Act and ULC Act.
Under such circumstances lack of clear policies regard to Water and Land Use have only led to aggravating the Woes of Public and increasing incidences of sporadic and organised resistances to various projects both Government and Private.
Undermining the Constitutional Provisions and Principles for the sake of attracting finance and corporates to promote the kind ‘Development’ which more than for Public Utility is pushed for Private profits, the Government has increasingly depended on the model of PPP. Which according to us is – ‘Projects for Private Profits’. The major portion of PPPs is financed through Debt and the Banking NPA crisis red flags the perils of depending more on such models.
What is required is people driven planning. Which will be equitable, sustainable and least resisted since the participation of public would be ensured at every stage from planning to implementation.
*Krishnakant, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti; Sagar Rabari, Khedut Samaj Gujarat; Ashok Shrimali, Mines, Minerals and People; Zuber Sheikh, SAATH