Political and social activists, academics and financial analysts included, a large number of people gathered at the inaugural of Peoples’ Convention on Infrastructure Financing in Mumbai, ahead of the Annual Meeting of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), decried investments of AIIB and other international financial institutions (IFIs), causing displacement, dispossession loss of livelihood and propelling inequality and social unrest.
Speaking at the occasion eminent economist Professor Arun Kumar, questioned the development model pushed ahead by IFIs in the pretext of ‘development for all’ as their only aim is profit-oriented growth at any cost. He raised the pertinent question of ‘development for whom’.
“AIIB has created a super structure, an ecosystem which acts as a complex web of shining terminologies and projects to attract investments, which actually is a smoke screen to hide the fact that there’s no human development happening” senior activist Medha Patkar said in her speech.
Raising concerns at the crackdown of activists by the government, she lamented, "Show us one state where the people opposing the projects have not been jailed to raise their concerns about the environment, and right to life and livelihood. Recently, people were fired upon in Thutthokodi, Tamil Nadu, when they demanded a pollution free environment to live”.
Financial analyst and journalist Sucheta Dalal said that the Indian banking system is at the verge of crisis, reeling under the mounting bad loans, caused by unfettered corporate loans. Referring to government’s announcement in the Parliament that Rs2.4 lakh crore bad loans are written off, she said that “If farm loan waver was proposed the world would have gone on a spin, while the loans of big corporations are written off and there isn’t a whimper.”
The inaugural ceremony of the three-day Convention started with music of resistance by cultural groups. Other speakers included Sreedhar, Environics Trust; Shaktiman Gosh, General Secretary, National Hawkers Federation; Leo Colaco National Fishworkers Forum / World Forum of Fisher-people; Roma, National Secretary, New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI).
Senior activist Ulka Mahajan asked, "Is land a commodity to sell to forcefully silence farmers by giving them some compensation to build infrastructure project?” She added "the land feeds generation of people by providing food,” while reminding that it will be difficult to bring back the fertility of land. "If raising issues of the marginalised is sedition, then we will continue to do it,” she emphasised.
The Peoples’ Convention on Infrastructure Financing is a 3-day confluence of people’s movements, civil society organiations and concerned citizens to deliberate about international financing and strategise a collective voice to hold these financers accountable for their impacts the lending is causing.