National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangthan (MASS) is organizing a public meeting in New Delhi on Dec 16 at Constitution Club to discuss on World Bank and its accountability, with special reference to TATA Mundra.
According to them, disproportionate to its quantum of lending, World Bank's influence on India has been unparalleled, since it became a member of World Bank on December 27, 1945. The influence, most often under the veil of secrecy and obfuscation spanned not just over the economic policies of the country, but over almost all sectors, law and administration.
This is apart from India being the single largest borrower from the World Bank Group for development projects – dams, thermal projects, infrastructure projects, urban development etc. The Bank also was instrumental in privatising water and power, and opening up agriculture to corporate plunder – something, which had a serious impact on a very large section of the population. World Bank Group has currently 386 active projects in India with a committed portfolio of $29.5 billion.
The increasing lending and influence didn't match with Bank's reluctant transparency and accountability. Talking tall on these principles, the Bank failed to walk its talk. It took years of hard struggle for the people of Narmada valley to hold the Bank accountable for its lending to the Sardar Sarovar dam. The Bank was forced to withdraw its lending to the dam in 1993.
However, many other struggles have not been very lucky. Be it the people affected by Singrauli thermal power project, or the slum dwellers affected by the Mumbai Urban Transport Project or the fisherfolk and coastal communities affected by the ongoing Integrated Coastal Zone Management or the tribal community affected by the limestone mining by Lafarge in Meghalaya, the Bank continues to turn it blind eye to the serious impacts of these projects on people and environment. In a few cases like the GMR Kamalanga thermal power project, people are availing all possible opportunities to hold the World Bank Group accountable.
After the Morse Report, which scripted the ousting of Bank from Sardar Sarovar (Narmada) Project, one significant report on India, authored by Bank's own compliance mechanism is the recent report by Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) report on the International Finance Corporation (IFC) funded Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (Tata Mundra), released late October 2013.
The communities lodged a complaint with the CAO in 2011, raising serious issues arising out of the Tata Mundra project. After 2 year process, CAO released its findings. The report confirmed all the concerns raised by the communities. Key findings of CAO include:
· Environmental, Social risks and impacts of the project were not considered and addressed.
· There is no social baseline data
· IFC's policies for land acquisition not applied, despite physical and economic displacement
· Inadequate attention paid to the requirement of biodiversity conservation.
· IFC failed in its review and supervision of the impacts on air-shed and marine environment.
· IFC failed to examine the cumulative impact of projects around Tata Mundra
Expectedly IFC rebutted the findings. It even went out of the way, risking its own credibility, defended its actions and their client. What was shocking was World Bank President Dr. Jim Kim's complete silence over the findings. While procedurally the President is the one who should take actions on the report, he chose not to take any actions, defending the IFC making mockery of communities’ concerns and undermining CAO, World Bank’s own accountability mechanism.
They said that this raises some pertinent questions: How accountable is the World Bank? Is the existence of CAO and Inspection Panel in World Bank a farce? Who is made accountable when institutions like CAO find serious non-compliance of policies? How is World Bank Group accountable to the people who are affected by its lending? Are there oversight mechanisms in India over World Bank and other financing by international financial institutions?