Ahead of the third annual meeting of multilateral lender Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Mumbai, several organisations have gathered under the banner of a ‘People’s Convention on Infrastructure Financing’ to oppose the mega push for infrastructure building at the cost of large-scale displacement of people, loss of livelihood and what they term diluting of regulatory frameworks on labour, environment and land acquisition. The three-day people’s convention will be held on June 21, 22 and 23, before the AIIB meets in Mumbai on June 25 and 26.
Hosted by the Working Group on International Financial Institutions, a loose network of various civil society groups across the world which have been working on issues of international financing, impact of such projects on the local development agenda, on local environment and on communities, the convention will put forward and discuss alternatives for an equitable development agenda.
Speakers at the convention include educationist Prof Anil Sadgopal of the All India Forum for Right to Education; Prof Arun Kumar, former professor of economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University; activist Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of People’s Movements and Indu Netam, who works with forest communities in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. Key sessions at the convention include one on infrastructure funds to be organised by the Centre for Financial Accountability; on urban water supply and the profit motive organised by Pani Haq Samiti and YUVA and one on the impact of smart city plans on the poor, to be organised by the Indian Institute for Human Settlement along with the National Alliance of People’s Movements.
Joe Athially of the Centre for Financial Accountability said, “The convention is a coming together of organisations including some working outside India who will be able to exchange notes and strategies, share their understanding and knowledge, and identify commonalities and areas to converge. And this is happening at a time when the Union government is pushing international finance in a very big way without looking at the consequences, from the Bullet Train to the industrial corridors, even though these are a continuation of UPA policies and plans.”
Participation at the convention will not be limited to those affected by AIIB-funded projects but also those affected by projects co-funded by AIIB as well as others concerned with the overall funding pattern of IFIs and their influence of international capital on the economy. Others participating include an all-India federation of hawkers, the fish workers’ forum, and groups working with communities affected by the mining industry.
“The convention will share stories of resistance and alternate visions on development along with demanding constitutional guarantees regarding meaningful and informed consultations and rights of communities in planning and development,” said a note circulated by the organisers. The organisers also said the convention is timely given the impact of international finance on communities across India vis-a-vis land acquisition from tribals and farmers, conflicts over control of resources and displacement. Also, while traditional multilateral development banks and international finance institutions were typically led by the West, the emergence of AIIB three years ago with its headquarters in Beijing is seen as China’s growing role in such financing. China is the largest shareholder in the bank followed by India which is one of its top borrowers — with several projects including Mumbai’s Metro Line 4 up for financing.
Two plenaries and 18 workshops are to be held on policies and safeguards on infrastructure financing, urban development, transport, ports, energy, water privatisation and on gender and social marginalisation on account of infrastructure projects.