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Press Release:People’s Movements Determined to challenge the unbridled expansion of infrastructure financing by international financial institutions
Chennai: June 4, 2018
• Peoples Movements & CSOs to organise Peoples’ Convention on infrastructure financing coinciding the 3rd Annual Governors Meeting of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Mumbai
• Determined to challenge the unbridled expansion of infrastructure financing by international financial institutions
Posing a challenge to the rapid expansion plans of international financial institutions like AIIB, people’s movements, civil society organisations and their allies are holding a Peoples’ Convention in Mumbai just days before the 3rd Annual Meeting of AIIB. This was announced by the Working Group on International Finance Institutions (WGonIFIs) in a press conference in Chennai today. WGonIFIs is a platform of a large number of people’s movements and CSOs fighting against negative impacts of large infrastructure projects, financed by international capital, like bullet trains, energy projects, large commercial ports and transport projects.
“Looking at the history of IFI investments in India, like that of the World Bank, where a large number of people has been severely impacted due to rapid expansion of mega infrastructure projects, we are concerned that a new infrastructure investment bank like AIIB without even the basic social environmental safeguards will take away people’s rights over natural resources, deprive them of their livelihood and impact the climate, causing irreversible damages”, energy and climate change expect Soumya Dutta said.
In the Chinese led bank AIIB, India holds the second largest shares, next to China and is a favourable destination of their investments securing 25% of the already approved lending. Within a short span of 3 years, India received loans worth $1.2 bn, out of a total $4.4 bn. The approved projects for India include transmission lines in Tamilnadu, rural roads in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, 24 X7 electricity for Andhra Pradesh, financial intermediary India Infrastructure Fund. The highly controversial Amravati capital city project is under the consideration of AIIB Board. Another $3 bn worth projects are in the pipeline for India.
Senior activist Jesuratnam from the Coastal Action Network, Tamilnadu said that “Infrastructure banks like AIIB is likely to investment in projects like Sagarmala which has three coastal economic zones in Tamilnadu comprising of ports, roads and associated infrastructure which will disrupt fishing operations and livelihood of fisherpeople. Large-scale infrastructure will not only displace and destruct the livelihoods but lead to disruption of coastal ecology and public indebtness”.
People’s organisations, CSOs and concerned citizens, under the aegis of WGonIFIs will be holding a Peoples’ Convention in Mumbai from June 21-23, just days before the official annual meeting which will be held in the same city from June 25-26. The Convention will bring together people fighting against large infrastructure projects, and people negatively impacted by the international financial institutions financed ‘development projects’ in the country.
Some of them include, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Bhumi Adhikaar Andolan, National Fishworkers’ Forum, Natioanl Hawkers Federation, Narmada Bachao Andolan, North East Peoples’ Alliance, Guajrat Khedut Samaj and All India Union of Forest Working People.
“The program will bring voices from across the country who are affected by large infrastructure projects and will devise strategies to make financiers accountable to the people’, co-ordinator of the People’s Convention Maju Varghese said.
The People’s Convention will witness coming together of over 250 groups, deliberations in around 20 parallel workshops on the impacts of international lending, cultural expressions of protests and mass action.
For more information on the Peoples Convention visit http://www.wgonifis.net
Contact: Maju Varghese: email@example.com | 8826249887
Via electronic mail
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank B9 Financial Street
Xicheng District Beijing 10033
People’s Republic of China
19th January 2018
Mr Joachim Von Amsberg, Vice President, firstname.lastname@example.orgDr. D.J. Pandian, Vice President, email@example.com
Mr Dong-Ik Lee, Project Team Leader, firstname.lastname@example.orgMr. Hamid Sharif, Director General, CEIU, email@example.com
Mr Yuanjing Sun, Principal Communications Officer,firstname.lastname@example.orgMr. Oliver Barron, Executive Officer, Office of the President, email@example.comMembers of the Board of Directors of the AIIB
Re: The AIIB’s investments in financial intermediaries: CSOs call for disclosure and accountability
Dear President Jin,
We write to you as representatives of civil society organizations to draw your attention to concerns associated with the AIIB’s investments via financial intermediaries (FIs), including infrastructure funds.
We note that the AIIB has, in 2017 invested in three FIs – the Indonesia Regional Infrastructure Development Fund, the India Infrastructure Fund, and the Emerging Asia Fund – and that further FIs are on the proposed projects list, including the India National Investment Infrastructure Fund. In addition, we have learned that the AIIB is in the process of developing a strategy for investment in equity and funds. This is an opportune moment for the AIIB to consider the lessons learned from other development finance institutions to avoid the pitfalls and reputational risks associated with FI lending.
While investing in FIs can help mobilize funds and attract private capital for economic development, this form of third-party or ‘hands-off’ lending also comes with significant risks – in particular around clients’ adherence to environmental and social (E&S) safeguards. In recent years, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – over half of whose investment portfolio is channelled via FIs – has come to acknowledge these risks, and has taken some steps to address them. Following critical findings from both the IFC’s own accountability mechanism, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) and from civil society, the IFC’s CEO, Philippe Le Houérou, has committed to reduce high-risk lending through FIs, saying “we will reduce IFC’s own exposure to higher risk FI activity and apply greater selectivity to these type of investments, including equity investments.”1
In March 2017, the CAO released its third monitoring report on the IFC’s financial sector portfolio..2The report examined actions taken by IFC to address the findings of the CAO’s 2012 Audit of a Sample of IFC Investments in Third Party Financial Intermediaries, in which the CAO found, among other things, that the “result of [IFC’s] lack of systematic measurement tools is that IFC knows very little about potential environmental or social impacts of its F[inancial] M[arkets] lending.”3In this year’s update, it is of particular concern that the CAO found that the “IFC does not, in general, have a basis to assess FI clients’ compliance with its E&S requirements.” As the CAO states, this is highly problematic in relation to FI clients that are supporting high-risk projects, and “where IFC does not have an assurance that the development of a client’s ESMS [Environmental and Social Management System] is leading to the implementation of the Performance Standards at the sub-project level.”4
Independent research carried out over the last year has supported these findings. Inclusive Development International (IDI) conducted a financial investigation to track IFC’s investments in financial intermediaries to their end use. This research only examined the business of a tiny segment of the 700 financial institutions and 220 private equity funds in the IFC’s FI portfolio; however, IDI found more than 130 projects and companies funded by two dozens IFC intermediaries that are causing or are likely to cause serious environmental harms and human rights violations. The projects are located in 24 countries and come from a range of high-risk sectors, including energy, industrial agriculture, mining, transportation, infrastructure, and even private military contracting. In each of these cases, it is apparent that IFC’s environmental and social Performance Standards are not being applied. IDI has detailed these findings, in collaboration with Bank Information Center, Urgewald, 11.11.11, Ulu Foundation and Accountability Counsel, in a four-part investigative series, entitled Outsourcing Development: Lifting the veil on the World Bank Group’s Lending through Financial Intermediaries.
Responding to these problems, the IFC’s CEO recently announced that the IFC has cut its high-risk lending from 18 to just 5 investments5, and has committed to increasing the number of FI investments ring-fenced for such ends as climate mitigation and women-owned SMEs6. In addition, the IFC has also begun “tracking FI clients’ exposure to coal and plans to incorporate a reporting requirement on coal exposures in legal documents with all new FI clients”.7
In this context, we urge the AIIB to learn from the IFC’s problematic experience with its financial intermediary portfolio and act to avoid the associated social, environmental and reputational damage. The AIIB can do so by putting in place robust policies and systems around financial intermediary investments to ensure transparency, accountability and efficient channels of communication with all stakeholders. These requirements, in AIIB’s policies, investment decision-making and contracts with FI clients should be mandatory and include:
- Scrutinising the existing project portfolio and pipeline of proposed FI clients to ensure that all projects are in line with the bank’s policies and strategies;
- Ensuring that the proposed FI client has in place a robust environmental and social management system before the investment is approved;
- Reviewing the track record of the FI client in applying the environmental and social framework and making this assessment public;
- Ensuring that FI clients require sub-projects to be compliant to all AIIB policies especially the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF), Complaints Handling Mechanism (CHM), Public Information Policy, and all relevant sectoral strategies and guidelines. This should enable FI sub-projects to remain accountable to AIIB oversight and due diligence at all levels of the project cycle;
- Monitoring the proposed client’s social and environmental due diligence and supervision of its investment; and
- Ensuring FI sub-project affected communities have access to redress, including through the AIIB’s accountability
In addition, it is crucial that the AIIB contractually require the FI client to disclose publicly all of its investments and permit the AIIB to disclose the information on its website. This will help ensure that affected communities and other stakeholders are aware that the sub-projects must comply with environmental and social standards and can alert the client, the AIIB, and its Board at early stages if those standards are not being met. A provision requiring this disclosure of FI sub-projects should be included in the AIIB’s forthcoming Public Information Policy. In this regard, as a first step, the AIIB could follow the ADB’s policy requiring 120-day public disclosure of draft environmental and social assessments “where the subprojects financed by the FI … through either credit-line, other loans, equity, guarantee, or other financing instruments, have the potential for significant environmental or social impacts.”8
In any case, funds routinely disclose a range of information. For example, PT. Indonesia Infrastructure Finance, a financial intermediary with equity held by the ADB, the IFC, and PT. SMI, where the AIIB’s Regional Infrastructure Development Fund will be housed, discloses all subprojects and discloses environmental and social impact assessments.9Other funds, routinely disclose a range of information.10
In addition, DJ Pandian told NGOs in Jeju during the AIIB AGM that he can see no obstacle to disclosing publiclyhighriskAIIBsub-projects supported by private equity funds. Such information would enable the Board, bank management, civil society and potentially affected communities to monitor whether the AIIB’s standards are appropriately applied to these investments, greatly increasing transparency and facilitating and incentivising better management of the environment, social, and governance issues acrossAIIB’s financial sector portfolio.
We look forward to your response to these concerns and your commitment to ensuring that the AIIB takes on the lessons learned at IFC to reduce high-risk FI lending.
Rayyan Hassan, NGO Forum on ADB
On behalf of:
Kindra Mohr, Accountability Counsel
Kate Geary, Bank Information Center-Europe
Elizabeth Summers, Bank Information Center
Anna van Ojik, BothEnds
Luiz Vieira, Bretton Woods Project
Paolyel MP Onencan, Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organization (BIRUDO) Uganda
Sarah Wykes, CAFOD
Wawa Wang, CEE Bankwatch Network
Joe Athialy, Center for Financial Accountability, India
Frances Witt, Christian Aid
Hasan Mehedi, Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network, Khulna, Bangladesh
Heinz Hödl, Coordination Office of the Austrian Bishop’s Conference for International Development and Mission (KOO), Austria
Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South
Helen Tugendhat, Forest People (FPP)
Dr Eduardo Tadem, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Philippines
Katharine Lu, Friends of the Earth, USA
Manana Kochladze, Green Alternative
Calvin Quek, Greenpeace East Asia
David Pred, Inclusive Development International
Karavali Karnataka Janabhivriddhi Vedike, INSAF
Andi Muttaqien, Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), Indonesia
Jocelyn Soto Medallo, International Accountability Project
Kate Horner, International Rivers
Maurice Ouma Odhiambo, Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya
Sukhgerel Dugersuren, OT Watch and Rivers without Boundaries, Mongolia
Nadia Daar, Oxfam
Eugene Simonov, Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition
Thilak Kariyawasam, Sri Lanka Nature Group
Stephanie Fried, Ulu Foundation
Korinna Horta, Uganda
7 IFC 2017 Improving IFC’s Approach to Environmental and Social Risk Management: Listening, Learning, and Adapting (updated April 2017). See: https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/77c11449-261e-484b-a885-f9d77b087386/Improving-IFCs-+Approach-to-ES-Risk-Management-Updated-April-2017.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
8 ADB Safeguard Policy Statement, 2009. SAFEGUARD REQUIREMENTS 4: SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS FOR DIFFERENT FINANCE MODALITIES
10 In addition to PT Indonesia Infrastructure Finance see, for example, the India Infrastructure Fund (IDFC) http://www.idfc.com/alternatives/infra-equity/portfolio_companies.htm.
November 27, 2017
Letter to the WB on Amaravati Case of Inspection Panel
The Executive Directors,
The World Bank
Dear Executive Directors,
We, the representatives of people’s movements, civil society organisations, and concerned citizens, write to the Board of World Bank Group to draw your urgent attention to a few critical matters surrounding the Bank’s proposed Project PI59808: India- Proposed Amaravati Sustainable Capital City Development Project. We are aware that complaints and requests for inspection were sent to the Inspection Panel during December 2016 and May 2017, and registration of the complaint was notified to the public (IPN-Request No. RQ 17/04).
Developments following the Inspection Panel’s visit
We are perturbed with the couple of recent developments, which took place after the Panel’s visit to India mid-September this year, following the registration of the complaint filed by farmers from Andhra Pradesh. This project has garnered much attention in the country owing to the massive land acquisition and ‘voluntary land pooling’ scheme [LPS]. The farmers allege harm to their livelihoods, environment, and food security, along with lack of consultation and participation of affected people. The Inspection Panel visited Amaravati during 13-15 September 2017 and has heard various representations from the project-affected villages. Soon after, in the first week of October, the Bank’s website published the Inspection Panel’s report — which was taken down within few days — with recommendations for investigation into the grievances of the complainants against forced land pooling, coercion and intimidation, lack of sufficient public consultations, grave threat to food security and loss of fertile floodplains to establish Amaravati. It is established from the copy of the report that the Panel has in fact concluded that there are indeed “issues of potential harm and policy non-compliance.” We note that it has further observed that the people “raised issues of a serious character that can only be fully ascertained in the context of an investigation.” It also recommends “carrying out an investigation,” which “will primarily focus on the resettlement aspects of the Bank’s proposed project, as well as environmental concerns, and issues related to consultation, participation and disclosure of information as they pertain to the Bank’s financing, policies and procedures.”
The Bank, while pulling down this report, issued a press statement saying that the Panel’s report was inadvertently published before being reviewed by the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. All the affected groups, the communities, supportive CSOs and media are now watching Board’s decision closely, which will decide on the further investigation into Bank’s non-compliance with its operating policies [OP/BP 4.01 – Environmental Assessment, OP/BP 4.04 – Natural Habitats, OP/BP 4.11 – Physical Cultural Resources, OP/BP 4.12 – Involuntary Resettlement, OP/BP 4.36 – Forests].
Undermining of Panel’s mandate
While you are now considering revising the directives of your accountability mechanism by next year, we keenly call forth to bolster the mandate of the Panel and not to weaken it. Earlier this year, there were calls by the CSOs for greater ‘independence’ and ‘legitimacy’ of the Panel by including external stakeholders in its Panel, which could be from the academia or CSOs. Not to deviate from the point of attention here, there are regular calls about strengthening your accountability, but your actions seem to weaken your mandate by limiting the role of your complaint handling mechanisms. This, in turn, reflects your undermining of the systems and responsibilities you uphold. Especially, now that the international climate has been manipulatively made conducive for development banks and lenders to thrust funds in the guise of mega infrastructure financing, it is likely that you would witness a large number of objections as well since it involves significant displacement of people, loss of natural resources and livelihoods. Disregard of national and state laws, violation of environmental and social safeguards and hiding of critical information to affected communities continue unchecked.
There are strong reasons to suspect that the Government of India might weigh in on the Board to dissuade it from permitting an investigation into the case. We want to confirm that that view is not shared by a large number of us, and the Government is going ahead against the wishes of the people.
The independence of the Inspection Panel and the commitment of the Board on following its procedures will be strongly tested once the Panel’s report is published on the Bank website again.
Intimidation of the State
Though the Government of Andhra Pradesh [GoAP] presented Land Pooling Scheme as voluntary, many farmers were intimidated and economically manipulated into pooling their lands. The strategies for the same included setting short deadlines for participation in the LPS, which were subsequently and repeatedly extended; threats to acquire the land under the regulations of the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, which would provide compensation far below the actual market value of the farmers’ land and threats to provide the ten-year annuity only to those farmers who signed up for the LPS prior to May 1, 2015.
Farmers who expressed opposition to the LPS were also intimidated and harassed. There were instances of burning of farms and plantations in the State. Further, there has been a heavy police presence in the Amaravati area since land pooling began, and police have interrogated, detained, harassed, assaulted, and intimidated residents. The Chief Minister of the State, who publicly challenged to take legal action against the people working against the capital city, has set a dangerous precedent to the effectiveness of accountability mechanisms of development banks. The intimidating atmosphere around any public workshop or meeting held by those who are not in favour of the capital city project is very clearly established in the IP report and as was evident during their visit to Amaravati as well.
We are astonished that the Bank has not made a public statement against this outright intimidation for seeking redressal from its accountability mechanism. Apart from a direct threat to the current complainants, it is also a warning to all future complainants that they will have to face the wrath of the state for approaching the Bank and its mechanisms. The silence the Bank continues to maintain on this is perceived to be a tactical one to appease the Indian government.
Precautionary Orders of NGT Judgment
In its recent (17th November 2017) decision, the Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal (in Pandaleneni Srimannarayana, EAS Sarma and others, vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and Ors.) has categorically held that the proposed Capital’s environmental and social impacts have been insufficiently reviewed and addressed when the controversial environmental clearance was accorded to it. As a consequence, the Tribunal thought it fit to appoint a special Supervisory Committee to review all conditions of the environmental clearance accorded by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, and also to subject the project to further review from a perspective of assessing risks, including those posed by climate change events. It is clear from this verdict that even the most basic assessments relating to the short-term and long-term environmental and social impacts of the project have not been assessed per law and applicable norms by the Andhra Pradesh Government.
All things considered, no project can be supported or financed if it is not in conformance with the Constitution of India. It is an undeniable fact that the Amaravati Capital proposal has not yet been reviewed and approved by the District Planning Committee [DPC] as is mandated per Article 243ZD of the Constitution of India, which requires such a project as the Capital Amaravati can only be promoted, provided it has been approved by the DPC having prepared a District Development Plan having regard to:
“(i) matters of common interest between the Panchayats and the Municipalities including spatial planning, sharing of water and other physical and natural resources, the integrated development of infrastructure and environmental conservation;
(ii) the extent and type of available resources whether financial or otherwise;
(b) consult such institutions and organisations as the Governor may, by order, specify.
(4) The Chairperson of every District Planning Committee shall forward the development plan, as recommended by such Committee, to the Government of the State.”
In the instant case, without Amravati having secured mandatory approval of DPC, it follows that extending any form of loan and assistance to the proposal will amount to the World Bank supporting, financing and participating in an unconstitutional project.
Our Demands against the Impositions of the WB as a co-financier in Amaravati Capital City Development Project
- We strongly hold the World Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a co-financier of the project, accountable for the already existing and impending crucial consequences of this mammoth capital city project with its flawed project design, based on its own environmental and social safeguards.
- Despite repeated communication and appeals, the GoAP has already proceeded with construction activities and laying out infrastructure in an accelerated mechanism, involving sub-projects and components, which highly falls in the purview of the Bank’s scope – its Urban Pro-Poor Infrastructure goal for the project. This is a very disturbing trend of the WB for proceeding with support for the government without paying heed to the resistances of the project affected communities and circumventing their concerns against the project. Also, as understood from the World Bank’s statement, it has executed a trust fund of $ 0.17 million for financing the preparatory works of the project.
- We do not hesitate to direct our charges against the WB on lending to the catastrophic project where we are witnessing now the forced Land Pooling Scheme to amass vast parcels of land for development across one of the richest fertile food belts of India [Please note that GoAP has proposed to acquire around 56,000 acres of which around 35,000 are already pooled in, including almost 100 hectares of Forest Land].
- We demand that WB revoke its support from the project, which would surely pave the way for the disruption of the natural state of a sensitive ecosystem including remodelling reserve forests by felling trees and building bio/industrial/techno/sports parks, along with your negligence towards our foresight of frequent floods triggered to an acute degree. We challenge that the Chief Minister of AP himself is flouting NGT orders on zero constructions on the river embankments, by renovating his residence on the banks adjacent to River Krishna.
- Displacement and ‘resettling’ of around 20,000 families in the guise of returning ‘developed’ residential and commercial lands in the absence of a guarantee and struggling in the tentacle grip of realtors, middlemen, goondas of the real estate sector are serious concerns raised.WB presenting a plan on involuntary resettlement against these issues without public consultations or consent is vehemently questionable.
- We strongly reiterate that the creation of Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Act (APRCDA Act 2014) was against the country’s Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 along with the tweaked amendments. We are aware that, as and when project components materialise, existing laws are amended at the State, or there is a complete irreverence to the nation-specific policies. We fiercely question this disregard of WB for our policies and laws, which were strenuously formulated by our national leaders during our times of national and regional struggles.
- The lack of an adequate and comprehensive Resettlement Policy Plan and the incompetent addressing of the Bank against the uprooting of impoverished Dalit families from 600-year-old occupied islands and not having guaranteed them return lands will lead directly to the creation of a wide marginalised community of informal sector on the outskirts of the capital city with no regard for their dignity, efforts and labour. Also, depriving village commons of the communities dependent on them is highly regrettable.
- We want to draw the attention of WB to the contemptuous promises made by the Government to upgrade skills of project affected people of which farmers are the majority, by wrenching their agricultural lands from them and introducing new ‘industrial and technological’ skills. The statistics of increase in land value, population and employment rates are highly speculated, and studies based on other references on recent capital cities of India affirm our case. We are resolute when we ask WB to reconsider stop investing in this project based on highly inflated statistics that are borrowed from the development models of foreign countries (Japan, Dubai, Singapore).
- We do not wish to sell our land to foreign players with diversified investments, MoUs and interests, in the name of ‘development’. GoAP, who should have been supporting the citizens who elected them, refrain from giving attention to our calls. We assert that we will continue exhorting WB for proceeding with this ill-conceived project, against the greater interests of the people in Amaravati.
We unwaveringly stress that the civil society of India is wary about how you will take a decision based on the recommendations of the Panel. We look forward to your immediate attention to our requirements and for your sound judgment on Amaravati case.
- Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan
- EAS Sarma, Forum for Better Visakha and Former Secretary, Ministry of Power, Government of India
- Prafulla Samanthra, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Odisha
- Gautam Mody, New Trade Union Initiative
- Peter, National Fishworkers Forum
- Madhuresh Kumar, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Delhi
- Afsar Jafri, Focus on Global South
- Sreedhar Ramamurthi, Environics Trust, New Delhi
- Ravi Rebbapragda, Samata Assertion for People
- Ashok Shrimali, Mines, Minerals & People
- Souparna Lahiri, All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM)
- Xavier Dias, Editor, Khan Kaneej Aur ADHIKAR, (Mines Minerals & RIGHTS)
- Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune
- Himanshu Upadhyaya, Public Finance Public Accountability Collective, Bangalore
- Tani Alex, Centre for Financial Accountability, New Delhi
- Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha
- Beyond Copenhagen Collective
- Willy, Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF, New Delhi
- Kalyani Menon-Sen, Independent Researcher and Activist
- Leo Saldanha, Environmental Support Group, Bangalore
- Ram Wangkheirakpam, Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur
- Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, Delhi
- Babu Rao, Retired Scientist, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) and Independent Environmental Expert
- Usha Seethalakshmi, Independent Researcher, Mahila Kisan Manch (MAKAAM), Forum For Women Farmers’ Rights
- Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
- Kiran Kumar Vissa, Rythu Swarajya Vedika (Forum For Farmers’ Sovereignty)
- Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for Right to Information and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
- Deepala Suresh, Lawyer and Independent Researcher
- Gutta Rohit, Human Rights Forum (HRF), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
- Ravi Kumar, Independent Lawyer (representative of the Amaravati project-affected before various judicial fora)
- Rajesh Serupally, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
- Jeevan Kumar, Human Rights Forum (HRF), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
- Bharat Patel, Machimar Adhikaar Sangharsh Sangathan
- Awadhesh Kumar, Srijan Lokhit Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
- Rajendra Ravi, Institute for Democracy and Sustainability
- Bilal Khan, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Abhiyaan
- Manshi Asher, Himdhara – Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh
- Aashima Subberwal, The Research Collective, New Delhi
- Rajesh Singh, Delhi Solidarity Group
- Himanshu Damle, Public Finance Public Accountability Collective, New Delhi
- Vimalbhai, Mattu Jan Sangathan, Uttrakhand
- Rajkumar Sinha, Chutka Paramanu Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
- Maglin Philomin, Teeradesa Mahila Vedi, Kerala
- Amulya Nidhi, Nai Shuruwat, Madhya Pradesh
- Kannan, PSI India
- Ravindranath, River Basin Friends
By Maju Varghese
The Constitution of India has accorded the Parliament the supremacy among the three organs of the Union government viz legislature, executive, and judiciary. Parliament not only makes the laws but also enables the citizens to participate in controlling the government. The Parliament applies various oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability in the system. The two mechanisms available in our country are questions and debates on the floor of the house and various committees which scrutinise the public finances and policies.
The budget session of the Parliament was held between January 31 and April 12, 2017. The session had a recess between Feb 10 and March 8, 2017, during which the standing committees examined the demand for grants from various ministries. The session was convened in the context of upcoming assembly elections and also of post demonetisation distress.
This session was important for many reasons. The budget was introduced on February 1 instead of the last working day of February as per the tradition. The government claims that advancing the presentation will result in necessary legislative approval for annual spending plans and tax proposals could be completed before the beginning of the new financial year. According to eminent economist Arun Kumar, early presentation of Budget will help the entire exercise to get over by 31 March, and expenditure, as well as tax proposals, can come into effect right from the beginning of new fiscal, thereby ensuring better implementation.
Besides advancing the date, the government decided from this year to merge Union Budget and Railway Budget. Earlier, Railway budget was presented first followed by the general union budget. Another interesting development this year is doing away with the distinction of the plan and non-planned expenditure in the budget-making monitoring difficult on capital infusion in developmental planning.
The budget session held 29 sittings for 178 hours in total in which 24 bills were introduced, and 23 bills were passed. Members raise 560 starred questions and 6440 un-starred questions during this session.
Some Major debates in the Parliament
The budget session saw the introduction of some major bills and discussions around those. These are: The Finance Bill, 2017; The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill, 2017; Bills related to Goods and Service Tax; The Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2017; the Mental Health Care Bill, 2017; and the Employee’s Compensation (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
Analysis of Questions in Parliament
During the budget session, about 6440 un-starred questions and 560 starred questions were admitted in the parliament. However, the lack of interest in the functioning of the IFIs was evident as just 7 questions asked on the topic in Lok Sabha out of 5203 questions, and 7 in the Rajya Sabha from the total 5064 questions. The break-ups of the questions are given below.
|IFI Name||Lok Sabha||Rajya Sabha|
Rising NPA’s and Parliament
The debate on Non-Performing Assets continued to be debated in the parliament with many parliamentarians raising the issue through questions. There were about 18 questions asked in the Rajya Sabha and 21 questions in Lok Sabha. K.V Thomas, then chairman of the standing committee on public accounts, said that the current non-performing assets stood at 6.8 lakh crore or 6.8 trillion of which 70% are those of big corporate houses. There were debates on the bad bank and how the banks could be cleared of the mounting NPAs. Interestingly, the same bankers who were asking the state to take care of their bad debts came against debts being waived off for farmers who are facing an acute crisis due to a variety of reasons leading to suicide deaths.
New trend of undermining democratic institutions
The Parliament is witnessing a new trend of bypassing Rajya Sabha in important matters including amendment of acts where both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is responsible. The introduction of the Finance Bill first with 10 amendment of acts and later to change 40 different acts including Reserve Bank of India Act as well as the Representation of the People Act was according to opposition first in the history of Parliament itself. This act has robbed the Parliament its right to refer the bill to a standing committee or to scrutinise it clause by clause as to every amendment and the power of Raja Sabha to discuss, propose and incorporate amendment.
The very fact that the finance bill is a money bill gives the option of not incorporating Rajya Sabha view in the bills. All the five amendments passed in the Rajya Sabha was not incorporated into the finance bill, and it was passed as such. Centre has got 22 Money bills passed in Lok Sabha ignoring the Rajya Sabha, and this has kept a bad president for the functioning of the democracy as such.
Executive legislation through Ordinance rather than legislation
The ordinance is an independent legislation brought out by the Executive; it is the wisdom and authority being exercised by the Executive. An Ordinance can only be done in extraordinary situations when the houses are not in session or a critical condition. The Ordinance encroaches the right of the parliament in law making.
The government seems to issues ordinance after ordinance despite the fact that this could be brought before the parliament for legislation in the first instance. According to the PRS Legislative, the government in the last three years has promulgated 27 ordinances, including the ones on land acquisition, demonetisation, payment of wages bill, etc. Many of the ordinances were promulgated multiple times. It is interesting to read the observation of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court observation in Krishna Kumar Vs State of Bihar delivered on January 2, 2017, that promulgation of ordinances is a fraud on the Constitution and a subversion of democratic legislative processes. The latest subversion is the Banking Ordinance, on which the finance minister refused to share details of the ordinance before Presidential assent.
While there were interesting debates in the parliament this session, it seems some of the issues are not being captured in the discussions. This includes life and livelihood issues of people who are getting displaced/ affected by development projects, investments of bilateral and multilateral agencies including World Bank, Asian Development Bank, IFC and new development banks like New Development Bank, Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, etc. A point to make in this regard is about New Development Bank, a multilateral Bank initiated by BRICS nations. There seems to be no real engagement of the Parliament in influencing the nature of the Bank given that Mr K. V. Kamat is the chief of the Bank. The Bank is in the process of developing its policies with regards to the environmental and social framework, disclosure policy, etc in their lending.
The other major lack of oversight is on negotiations in the trade policy. India is Negotiating a free trade agreement, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – RCEP  in the Asia Pacific region. According to India FDI Watch, “In the past four years and to this day, no text has been made available to members of the public, parliamentarians, civil society or media,”. The trade negotiations are happening under a veil of secrecy where Parliament and parliamentarians are kept in the dark.
Parliament does not have an institutional space like Standing Committee where trade negotiations, Indian investment abroad and Multilateral and Bilateral investments to India and its effects on Indian policy environment is being discussed. The failure of the Standing Committee to come out with a report on the demonetisation in this session with full facts and figures were a let down on the process particularly when it was announced that it would come out before the end of the budget session.
 The finance bill is for ordinarily introduced to give effect to financial proposals of the Government of India for the following fiscal year and not to make permanent changes in the existing laws unless they are consequential upon or incidental to the taxation proposals.
 RCEP is a 16-nation trade pact that includes the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), along with China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, a region that accounts for 46 percent of the world’s population and that produced nearly 30 per cent of global GDP in 2016.
Netindia123.com: Medha Patkar demands more transparency in ADB projects
(May 9, 2017)
Webindia123.com: Medha Patkar demands more transparency in ADB projects
(May 9, 2017)
The Statesman: Call for nationwide protests against ADB’s projects in India
(May 8, 2017)
Business Standard: Medha Patkar demands more transparency in ADB projects
(May 8, 2017)
Eenadu: Medha Patkar demands more transparency in ADB projects
(May 8, 2017)
Sify.com: Medha Patkar demands more transparency in ADB projects
(May 8, 2017)
The CEO Magazine: Medha Patkar demands more transparency in ADB projects
(May 8, 2017)
Orrisadiary.com: ADB’s 50 years greeted with mass protest at Bhubaneswar, Odisha
(May 8, 2017)
Sambad: ଏସିଆ ବିକାଶ ବାଙ୍କ ବିରୋଧରେ ଆନ୍ଦୋଳନ (May 7, 2017)
The Shillong Times: ADB’s 50 years greeted with nationwide protests (May 6, 2017)
Navratnanews.com: 50 years of Asian Development Bank Destruction, Displacement and Exploitation of Natural resources (May 6, 2017)
Mumbainewsnetwork: ADB’s 50 years greeted with nationwide protests (May 5, 2017)
Daily O: ADB celebrates 50 years, but there’s a problem with development institutions (May 5, 2017)
The Ecologist: Asian Development Bank must end its 50 year addiction to coal!
(May 4, 2017)
The Telegraph: Protests against ADB projects (May 4, 2017)
Emaatimes.com: पटना: टुकड़ों में बंट कर रह गयी बिजली कंपनियां, गरीबों से दूर हो गयी बिजली
(May 3, 2017)
Janjosh.com: अगेंस्ट ADB की बैठक हुई सम्पन्न (May 3, 2017)
TwoCircles.net: Marking Asian Development Bank’s 50 years, protests to take place in over 100 places in India this week (May 2, 2017)
MattersIndia.com: ADB’s 50 years: Protests to take place in several places (May 2, 2017)
National News Analysis: Marking Adb’s 50 Years, Protest Actions To Take Place In Over 100 Places In India This Week (May 2, 2017)
Governance Now: ADB’s 50th anniversary, civil society’s 100 protests (May 2, 2017)
Counterview.org: Anti-ADB protests begin across India: Planks include loss of livelihood of indigenous people, eco-destruction (May 1, 2017)
Ecologise.in: ADB@50, Resistance@50 (April 28, 2017)
Counterview.org: 50 actions of resistance in India at 50 places against ADB’s 50 year of inequitable policies
(April 28, 2017)
(07 May 2017) Jhabua: Protest in Meghnagar, Jhabua against ADB and other IFIs
(May 6, 2017) Bilaspur: ADB Stop Violating Human Rights and Rights of Indigenous, tribal and forest communities: Stop Supporting Militarisation of our Territories
(May 5, 2017) Nagpur: Workers and Hawkers Stages Protests Against Privatisation of Civic Services
(May 5, 2017) New Delhi: ADB’s 50 years greeted with nationwide protests