Hyderabad, May 3: The Peoples Forum Against ADB commenced its counter events to the official ADB AGM with a powerful indictment of the development model promoted by the institution and the Indian state.
Speakers from across Asia, including Philippines, Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bangladesh and groups from India spoke about their experiences with bad development projects, exclusion and militarisation. Meanwhile, the official AGM began in the US $ 39 million Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) under a massive security cordon, where delegates met in the name of the poor.
Over a 1,000 people gathered at the Public Gardens to listen to the inaugural session of the Peoples Forum. Groups from West Bengal and Jharkhand began the meeting by raising slogans against the ADB and singing songs of protest.
“Where is the space for the poor in the development model pushed by the ADB?” asked Ms Kousalya of the ‘Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Hakk’, a struggle group based in Mumbai fighting for housing rights. “The ADB-funded Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM) is a slap in the face of the poor. The ADB should withdraw and the plan be dropped. There is no space for us in this scheme, it is mainly to attract big companies to cities”, she asserted.
A focus area at the Peoples Forum was the implications of the bank’s plans for the North-Eastern states of India. “Due to the existence of repressive laws, civil space is increasingly being reduced. This allows mega projects like dams, power plants and highways to bulldoze their way into the North-East. The nexus between militarisation and so-called development has been sufficiently proven in the ethnic conflicts that have been engineered by the army”, said Mr M Kikon of the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR). Mr Kikon said that the strength of Chattisgarh is agriculture and bio-diversity. The ADB will destroy this with their plans to promote agri-business in the state. The loan will introduce high-end seed varieties that consume huge amounts of water. This will lead to a limiting of seed varieties and farmers will be pushed off the land, further accentuating the Agrarian crisis, and lead to mass migration. “This is why many of us have been demanding that the loan be dropped”, said Mr Gautam Bandhopadhya of the Nadi Ghati Morcha.
“Over 30 million people depend on fisheries for livelihood in South East Asia alone. ADB-led policies of unregulated privatisation and destructive development of coastal and marine resources will sound the death-knell for these peoples”, asserted Mr Agnes Balota of the Sea Fish for Justice Network and Tambuyog based in the Philippines.
A clear message from the PFAADB events was that a new development model based on peoples’ rights to livelihoods, natural resources, dignified employment, security and democracy is urgently needed. Such a model must evolve from the grassroots and peoples’ knowledge.
Later, in the day activists from the Peoples Forum joined the trade union rally and expressed solidarity with their demand of “ADB go back”. The forum will also begin its film festival titled ‘Images of resistance and Asian destructive bank’. It will run from May 3 to 6 at the Nisiet Campus in Yusufguda, about 15 kms from the centre where the ADB meet is underway.