The Karen people’s pursuit for survival in Northern Thailand

The E-Pao.net, 12 November 2018

http://e-pao.net/epPageExtractor.asp?src=features.Karen_people_pursuit_for_survival_in_Northern_Thailand_By_Jiten_Yumnam.html&fbclid=IwAR0DeY_NDslouzFWxEiawDsbSHe7VhSrbtIt7PYW0AR_egfzczj2sLHkurY

An uphill winding road amidst lush green thick forest in Northern Thailand led us to the Huay E-Khang Village, bounded by Rice fields and wooden thatched houses. The village inhabited by the Karen people, a major indigenous people of Thailand, is a two hours’ drive from Chiang Mai City. The visit, as part of an exposure visit of indigenous youths attending the Third International Indigenous Youth Conference, organized by the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network, from 5-9 September 2016 in Chiang Mai, familiarized us to unique way of life of Karen and changing realities within.

The Karen people, who also inhabit parts of Burma, Laos and Thailand, practiced rotational farming, cultivating rice and seasonal vegetables. The traditional system of governance still exists to regulate the functioning of social and cultural affairs, in full conjunction with modern village administration, more to regulate Government’s development activities. The Karen people practices Animism, Buddhism and Christianity as their religion.

An interaction with Huay E-Khang villagers reveals some of the principal concerns and affirmative initiatives among the Karen people. Challenges include the Thai Government’s non-recognition of their rights over their land, the continued expansion of forest areas for conservation measures and repression of community leaders defending their rights and land. Additionally, a complex survival challenge of Karen refugees from Burma persists. A change in traditional agriculture practices is also evident. A remarkable effort to propagate the Karen’s traditional knowledge of Karen among youths is visible.

A shift in traditional agriculture practices is clear in Huay E- Khang village, indicating adverse impacts of globalization in sustainable management of land and forest. Agriculture practices used to be organic earlier, but commercial agriculture embedded with chemical use and pursuance of cash crops threatens traditional agriculture practices, such as rotational farming, characterized by sharing of community labour and establishment of village rice banks for seeds sharing and use during food shortages among villagers. Agriculture expenses increased and villagers started borrowing to sustain agriculture, indebting many villagers.

Climate change and decrease in rainfall further led to difficulty to grow traditional crops, impacting food sovereignty and food produce. Many families finds extremely difficult to support education for children, while also compelling youths to migrate in cities and smaller towns, such as in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Bangkok etc, for employment avenues. The situation led to much worry among the elders, compelling them to seek solutions.

As one of mitigation measures, villagers of Huay E-Khang imposed restriction on plantation of cash crops and the use of chemicals in rotational farming areas. Another affirmation action is conscious efforts to transmit traditional knowledge to their younger generations.

Noraeri Thungmueangthong, a Karen woman leader shared her people’s effort, especially women to impart traditional knowledge to the younger generations, including Karen language, script and their history of their land. Karen youths are encouraged to go with their parents to learn the spiritual connection and sustainable management of their land and forest, such as tying of umbilical cords of new born babies to trees for forest protection.

Legends of Karen believed the spirits and health of the person with the umbilical cord grows along with the trees and the forest. Preservation of seeds, learning traditional cooking with recipes from nearby forest, learning folk stories, weaving of traditional clothes is educated to younger generations. Karen dances, ceremonies, traditional medicinal practices, handicraft are imparted as well.

The efforts help inculcate Karen youths to value importance of transferring the traditional knowledge for protection of their community land, cultures and their identity and further to feel proud to be a Karen, in learning the rich values of their traditional knowledge, practices and other cultural and natural heritages.

Ms. Noraeri continues to share that in Thailand, land belongs to the State and the collective right to land is still not recognized. Karen people are still striving for the recognition of their communal land title. One of the serious challenges among the Karen people is the continued effort of the Government of Thailand to expand forest land areas, for conservation measures and setting up of national parks, without recognizing her peoples’ rights over forest. On 7 September 2016, the Central Administrative Court of Thailand pronounced a ruling insensitive to Karen peoples’ traditional way of life and relationship with their land.

The matter relates to an incident of arsoning of around 100 Karen homes and their barns, in Pong Luk Bang Kloy village in Phetchaburi Province in May 2011 by officials of the Department of National Park (DNP) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MNRE), Government of Thailand, on charges of ‘encroaching’ on Kaeng Krachan National Park .

The court, based on a complaint filed by Karen villagers, ruled that the park officers of DNP had the right to enact measures to take down structures in the park under Article 22 of the 1961 National Park Act. In its verdict, the court blamed Karen people for encroaching upon forestland to expand their community and farms. The court also barred the community from returning to the land, which the Karen considered as belonging to their ancestors.

The Karen had been living in Ban Bangkloi Bon in Phetchaburi’s Kaeng Krachan district for generations, until the evictions began and before the National Park was established in 1981. “The ruling that the Karens had ‘encroached’ forestland only affirms the general lack of understanding on our histories and sustainable traditional practices and livelihoods,” said Wut Boonlert of the Karen Network for Culture and Environment. The court, however, ordered DNP to pay each Karen villager whose house was burned down 10,000 Thai Baht in compensation for property loss. The meager amount is incommensurate to compensate for destruction of homes, way of life and their survival dependence on their land and forest.

The court verdict also comes amid widespread forced evictions and criminalization of Karen people and other hill tribes in forest areas across Thailand. In July 2014, three Karen families had their lands ‘reclaimed’ by the Forest Department and in October, 37 Karen were convicted on pretext of encroachment and illegal logging for cutting trees to build their homes in northern Mae Hong Son province. Such cases have increased exponentially after the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) enacted Order No. 64/2014 to increase forest cover at the expense of indigenous peoples rights.

Community leaders striving for protection of indigenous peoples’ way of life are also subjected to direct infringement of their human rights. One Pawlajee “Billy” Rakjongcharoen, who had demanded justice for the Karen communities evicted from the National Park, remained disappeared since April 2014. He was apprehended for possession of illegal honey.

The main suspect in his disappearance has been acquitted and even promoted within the Department. The Park Chief had already been under investigation for the killing of another Karen activist in 2011. Interventions from UN human rights offices such as the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to secure his release or locate his whereabouts remained unheeded . Mr. Billy continues to remain traceless as time goes by.

The Thai Government’s effort to repatriate Karen refugees back to Burma is another concern among the Karen refugees, especially those fleeing the conflict afflicted Karen State of Burma. The majority of the refugees are indeed women and children. The refugees were granted temporary refuge in three locations, Mae U Su, Mae Salit and Nong Bua. Since their arrival, local Thai authorities have repeatedly pressured the refugees to return home despite evidence that their land back home is still conflict ridden and unsafe for their return . Karen organizations, including the Karen Women Organization issued appeals against forcible repatriation of Karen refugees, back to a heavily land mined war zone in Burma.

An adept listening of Karen young girls to an elder's sharing on Karen cultures and way of life at Huay E-Khang village, Northern Thailand, 8 September 2016
An adept listening of Karen young girls to an elder’s sharing on Karen cultures and way of life at Huay E-Khang village, Northern Thailand, 8 September 2016

A strong determination to pursue their way of life, free from undue interference, is easily discernible among the Karen. The Karen people and other indigenous peoples of Thailand have an arduous task to ensure a full recognition of their rights over their land, forest and resources. The recognition of self-determined development and sustainable management of their land, forest and resources, as provisioned in UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 and deepening all efforts to prompt the Thailand Government to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights remains a venerable challenge.

Security of indigenous human rights defenders requires utmost attention. The political resolution of conflict situation in Karen State in Burma is crucial to end much uncertainty among Karen refugees in Thailand and to realize their aspirations to return home in a safe and secure environment. The exertions to recognize traditional community land ownership and sustainable management of their land and natural resources, including through a conscious effort to propagate traditional knowledge among the Karen younger generation is a critical step towards reinforcing assertion of their inherent survival rights.

The forces of globalization are overtly strong possessing ability to wipe out indigenous cultures and identity, especially by destroying their land and resources. In this onerous situation, the exemplary role of Karen people, especially women to deepen community responsibility to revitalize indigenous knowledge and traditional practices among their youths in a fast globalizing world, with their sacrifices provides succinct hope for realization of Karen peoples’ self-determination over their land, lives and future.


* Jiten Yumnam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at mangangmacha(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 11, 2018.

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CRA condemns attack on Ms. Agnes Kharshiing of Meghalaya

The E-Pao.Net, 10 November 2018

http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=news_section.Press_Release.Press_Release_2018.Condemns_attack_on_Agnes_Kharshiing_of_Meghalaya_20181110

The Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur would like to express our deep condemnation with the brutal attack on Ms. Agnes Kharshiing, President of Civil Society Women’s Organization on 8th November 2018 at East Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya in North East India during her documentation of illegal coal mining and corruptive practices. Her companion Anita Sangma was also attacked.

agnes taken to hospital

Pic: Ms. Agnes taken to hospital in Shillong

Ms. Agnes Kharshiing was attacked & brutally assaulted by a group of people at Tuber Shohshrieh, East Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya on 8th November 2019, while documenting the illegal mining and transportation of coal in the area. The attack reportedly happened after Ms. Agnes took photographs of several trucks loading coal illegally in Tuber Shohshrieh area in Meghalaya. The attack has left Ms. Agnes with serious injuries in her head and body. She is under treatment at the NEIGRIMS Hospital in Shillong and is currently in the Intensive Care Unit due to her serious condition.

Ms. Agnes is a well-known human rights defender, proactive in denouncing illegal mining of Coal and Limestone in Jaintia Hills and other parts of Meghalaya in clear violation of the National Green Tribunal and other environment laws. There are serious concerns that the attack was carried out by the coal mafias operating in Meghalaya, who opposed to exposition of illegal coal mining and corruption.

The Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur express our concern with the increased case of targeting of human rights defenders across India’s North East, which involves direct targeting of community leaders and the curtailing of the functioning of human rights organizations, undermining the crucial role of civil societies in fostering a democratic, an accountable and human rights oriented development processes in Meghalaya and across India’s North East.

The Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur would like to urge upon the Government of Meghalaya to take urgent steps to Investigate and arrest those personnel involved in the attack of Ms. Agnes Kharshiing and her companion Anita Sangma. The Government of Meghalaya should stop illegal mining of Coal and Limestone in Meghalaya.

The Government of India should stop all forms of harassment and targeting of indigenous human rights defenders and curtailment of the functioning of human rights organizations and uphold the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, 1999. The Government should take urgent steps to protect the rights of human rights defenders in Meghalaya and across India’s North East.

Mob attacks 2 women activists in Meghalaya

By Rining Lyngdoh, The Telegraph, 9 November 2018

Noted RTI activist Agnes Kharshiing and her associate Anita Sangma were attacked allegedly by a mob in coal-rich East Jaiñtia Hills district on Thursday. Both are in critical condition following serious head injuries.  The incident took place at Sohshrieh village bordering West Jaiñtia Hills district between 1.30pm and 2pm, when Kharshiing and Sangma were returning to Shillong from Lad Rymbai in East Jaiñtia Hills district. Sohshrieh is nearly 80km from here.agnes taken to hospital

Pic: Ms. Agnes Kharshiing, noted Anti – Mining & Anti – corruption activists taken to hospital

This was the second attack on social activists in East Jaiñtia Hills. On March 19, former president of the Jaiñtia Youth Federation, Poipynhun Majaw, was murdered by goons. Police are yet to arrest anyone.  Kharshiing, who is also the president of the Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO) and Sangma were rushed to Jowai civil hospital in West Jaiñtia Hills, but later shifted to the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) here.

According to superintendent of police, East Jaiñtia Hills, S. Nongtynger, two police teams from Khliehriat were sent to Sohshrieh. The police found the two social activists in a critical condition after being attacked by the mob at Sohshrieh and rushed them to the civil hospital at Jowai. A case has been registered and the police are looking for the attackers.  The two social activists went to Lad Rymbai in a hired taxi from here. Sources said the driver was spared by the mob while the two social activists were attacked brutally by the mob that included women.

Sources said Kharshiing had taken photographs of coal being dumped at a few locations on their return journey. At Sohshrieh, Kharshiing stopped on seeing some coal-laden trucks after which she and her associate were attacked. “The attackers first blocked her vehicle and then started assaulting them,” a source said.

Chief minister Conrad K. Sangma condemned the attack. “The MDA government strongly condemns the attack. on Agnes and her team. We have asked the police and the district administration to investigate the matter and arrest the culprits,” he said. “Civil society plays an important role in a democratic system as they are instrumental in highlighting the concerns of the people.”

Pitfalls on land acquisition for Mapithel Dam project

By Jajo Themson,

The Sangai Express, 29 June 2018

http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=news_section.opinions.Opinion_on_Building_of_Tipaimukh_Dam.Pitfalls_on_land_acquisition_for_Mapithel_Dam_project_By_Themson_Jajo

Introduction: Land acquisition is a cardinal aspectin the process of any developmental activities like urbanization, industrial set up, infrastructural works like Railway &Highways constructions, building of dams and hydropower plants etc. Acquisition of land is an area that intertwines with various tussles especially of legality that induces potential threats to the rights of the land owners.

This matter seems to be a hidden portionin most cases of land, forest, rivers and other assets acquisition for big projects in India, which in fact implicates much as far as legitimacy is concerned.By convention, neither project work implementation nor other activities precedeland acquisition process.

Until the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 came into enforced since 1 January 2014, acquisition of land were normally governed by the Land Acquisition Act, (LAA) 1894all over India except Jammu & Kashmir.

The LAA, 1894, an aggressive law was introduced by the British Colonial Rule in India in order to serve their colonial interest. Howeveron the other side, it was provided that this Act cannot be applied in the scheduled areas as special protection given to the tribal communities under the Article 371 (C) of the Indian constitution.

In some cases, Cash compensations are paid in lieu of land being acquired and in some cases, alternative land areas are arranged proportionate to the required land area under land for land deed.

Most of the acquisitions of land in the state of Manipur are done in a peculiar way that usually associates with lot of infirmitiesas far as legal perspective is concerned.

This article intends to a discourse of the pitfalls on land acquisition forthe Mapithel dam of Thoubal Multipurpose Project with a view to elucidatethe nature of one hidden danger that is compressed upon the affected land owners and community people at large due to land acquisition. It is hoped that readers will notmisconstrue this write up but envisage in the optimistic angle.

Direct purchase of land

In the process of land acquisition for Mapithel dam of Thoubal Multipurpose Project, neither the LAA, 1894 was applied nor provisions of tribal customary land laws are maintainedand allegiance to the provisions under Article 371 (C) of the Indian constitution.

Land, forest, river and resources belonging to the tribal villages in Ukhrul and Senapati district were acquiredunder “Direct Purchasedeed”for this project way back in 1990’s.

It is pertinent that this mode of direct purchase or transfer of landagainst the existing laws is almost left oblivion like in many other projects in Manipur where flagrant violation of series Govt. orders, protective Land Laws, Legislations, Court’s Orders & Judgments have been perpetrated time and again in the pretext of national or state welfare. This literally contravened the protective laws of nation which were enacted in the interest of the backward scheduled tribe areas.

1993 Pact and Sale Deed

None can deny that no tribal villages in the Mapithel Valley thought of, planned or had willingness to transfer their land, forest and river being their most precious asset they were handed down through their forefathers.Besides their unwillingness, they were prohibited undertribal customary land laws and Indian protective laws that do not allow transfer of theirland to non tribe or non-local people. Even selling or buying of land in the inter-villages is also not permitted as per their customary land laws.

While the original land owners were bounded by the abovementioned laws, the arbitrary push of Mapithel dam project brought a compellingcircumstancewhen it was conceived in 1980’s. The affected villagers raised strong protest culminating to even violent actions.

Consequent upon to that, state Govt. opened a door for negotiation in early 90’s which ultimately led to signing of the Memorandum of Agreed Terms and Conditions (MoATC) on 19/06/1993 between the affected villages and the state Govt. of Manipur for purchase/transfer of land.

This was followed by entering a pact of sale deed in March 1996 in the mode of Direct Purchase Deed. Furthermore, the very saledeed has underlying implications of land and forest being transferred directly or indirectly includes forest reservation/protection under Catchment Area Treatment (CAT) plan and the areas where the Compensatory Afforestation (CA) are being maintained even though the accord of 1993 and the sale deed did not cover them.

Now the arising impediments are,the question of legality on purchase/transfer of land pertaining to scheduled tribe areas and the conditions contained in the sale deed at one side and literal implications of land areas beingpurchased from whom under what lawprovision,constituteyet another aspect of underlying infractions in the said deed.

As per the terms of the sale deed between the Executive Engineer, Thoubal Project Division No.1, IFC Department, Manipur representing the Govt. of Manipur dated 8/3/1996, absolute ownership of the land given in the accord schedules were dully identified/ verified bythe DC, Ukhrul/his authorized representative and the concerned Headman/Chief.

The manner of ascertaining land owner in the Mapithel valley happened to be a kind of mysteryto public as no definite legally permissible laws could be ruled out. As far as onecan understand, there are no land records or related documents to prove the real land ownership. This even invokes another question of irrationality of the said land agreement.

Conclusion: A close observation on the land acquisition for the Mapithel dam project in the light of the above discussion, it is undeniable that the project is associated with legal infirmities. It neitheradhere to the LAA, 1894 nor the traditional land laws of the tribal communities.

Moreover, the direct purchase/transfer of land without definite laws, virtually contravened the provisions of the Art, 371 (C) of the Indian constitution. Then themain concern here is,where and how is the state Govt. rectifying the pertinent legal issues on land acquisition like the case of Mapithel dam projectwhere such serious violations are mostly concealedwhich in fact makesa suicidal and detrimentalfactor to the very existence of the tribal communities which magnifiedtheir vulnerability.

Finally, it is worth asserting that, it is high time on the part of the project developers to take up corrective measures over the past and current acts of illegality on land acquisition process for implementing developmental programsso that supremacy of laws and development justice can be prevailed in the state in the future.


* Jajo Themson wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be contacted at thmsontezonge(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on 29 June , 2018 .

World Bank Financing Concerns in India’s North East

The Imphal Free Press, 20 October 2018

http://www.ifp.co.in/page/items/52988/world-bank-financing-concerns-in-indias-north-east?fbclid=IwAR0cSVJ4bv9BbjOD6cNiC0165EGXp2fhgN4trfRIxIsR3V0c7whupi6onhU

down with imperialism group pic

The Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG) concludes recently at Bali, Indonesia from 8th till 14th 2018 with much polemics. The annual meet discussed measures to deepen financing for development on realizing 2030 development agenda and of course to promote economic growth across the globe, even as the trade dispute between USA and China dominates the annual meeting. In a development with potential implications in Manipur, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reaffirmed their commitment to open trading systems that have underpinned their economic growth. The ASEAN leaders met on 11 October in Bali on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank, to intensify efforts to reach a “substantial conclusion” to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, focusing on free trade by end of 2018. The RCEP that would include China, India and Japan would complement India’s Act East Policy to foster free trade with South East Asian countries.

The IMF World Bank annual meeting in Bali also brings forth inherent contradictions. Civil Societies from across the globe denunciated the IMF / WB meet, raising concerns with these institutions, impacts of their neoliberal policies, the high Indebtness of developing countries due to the policy prescriptions and conditionalities and subsequent impoverishment of communities affected by its policies and projects financed by it. Community leaders raised concerns how World Bank funded projects like the Nam Theun II dam in Laos, Sesan II Hydroelectric project in Cambodia, Lafarge mining and high voltage transmission and distribution lines in North East India undermined indigenous peoples rights and relation with their land and forest. Civil societies also raised concerns with overt focus on infrastructure financing and privatization of development processes, while also claiming that World Bank funded natural resource extraction projects are marred with unaccountability of the corporate bodies involved.  Elsewhere, the Peoples Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) raised concerns with the impacts of World Bank financed use-certificate model of land reform in Ethiopia, covering 6.3 million land certificates since 2003. PCFS complained the same land reform program led to land grabbing of around 2.5 million hectares of land, even as World Bank claimed the project conferred land rights to women.

The restrictions imposed by the host Indonesian Government on the organizing of the Peoples Global Conference on IMF / World Bank led to much controversy, as civil societies elaborated how the restriction is much akin to the realities of exclusion of communities, unaccountability of corporate bodies and state repression in projects financed by World Bank. The restriction is also a clear indication of the shrinking space for civil societies and the undemocratic nature of development decision making.

The contradictions evident in Bali necessitates a deep introspection on the increased involvement of World Bank (WB) and other international financial institutions (IFIs) like the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in financing development processes in India’s North East (NE) amidst India’s Act East Policy. The World Bank financing in India’s NE intensified since India adopted its Act East policy. India is the largest recipient of loans from the World Bank, amounting to $102.1 billion, between 1945 and 2015 as on 21 July 2015. As of 31 December 2015, India’s loans from the WB stands at $104 billion (IBRD—$54 billion and IDA—$50 billion) . As early as June 1991, India launched a comprehensive economic reform program, with World Bank support of US$ 500 million under its structural adjustment program (SAP) and vigorously pursued privatization process. After becoming a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, India initiated rapid privatization of almost all sectors .

World Bank Financing in North East India: In the year 2006, the World Bank conducted a Study focusing on water and natural resources management in India’s NE and developed the North East Strategy Report, entitled “Development and Growth in North East India”, The Natural Resources, Water and Environment Nexus”. The World Bank report prescribed that NE should focus on economic liberalization processes and free enterprises . The report also emphasized the need to build enabling institutional capacity and change at the local, state and central level to promote water and forest development, including development of hydropower and renewable energy across NE. The Bank is now focused on financing major infrastructure projects across NE, including road projects in Mizoram, the 400 KV high voltage transmission and distribution lines, mining in Meghalaya.

Infrastructure Road Projects: The World Bank accorded much thrust in financing infrastructure projects, especially roads, high voltage transmission and distribution lines. The World Bank on 12 June 2014 approved a $107 million credit for the Mizoram State Roads II – Regional Transport Connectivity Project to improve transport connectivity for the landlocked state of Mizoram and to enhance Mizoram and other northeastern states’ road links with neighboring countries . The Mizoram State Road project earlier financed by the World Bank from 2002 till 2009 and implemented by RBM Tantia, Baghareetha Private Limited, CCAP Limited and Termat Engineering and Infrastructure Private Limited has marred with project delays and inadequate compensation and rehabilitation of affected communities.

Lafarge mining in Meghalaya:  The International Financial Corporation, one of the financial lending arms of the World Bank along with several other financial institutions, including ADB, the German Development Bank (DEG) etc have co-financed the limestone mining operation in the State of Meghalaya with Lafarge Group of France and Cementos Molins of Spain. The Lafarge Surma Cement (LSC) Project, run by French multinational Lafarge received a loan of $45 million from the IFC in 2003. The violation of India’s forest laws, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and the Forest Rights Act, 2006 is very much evident in the case . In January 2014, the Khasi people affected by the IFC and the ADB funded limestone mining filed a complaint with the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), the IFC’s accountability mechanism. The Khasi people complain that Lafarge have illegally infringed upon their land without consent while also causing environmental destruction and sought justice .

Energy Projects:  Financing of Energy projects and related infrastructures constitute a major focus of the World Bank financing in India’s North East.  The World Bank Board on June 24, 2016 approved a US$ 470 million loan to support six states in the north eastern region of India to augment their transmission and distribution (T&D) networks .  The Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) in India signed agreements with Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura for implementation of the ‘North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project’ in January 2014. The World Bank financed a major portion of the Rs. 8,150 crore ambitious projects as loan for power transmission lines, transmission sub-stations and related works. The PGCIL provided technical and managerial support for inter-state transmission and distribution systems . There are widespread concerns that the financing of the 400 KV high voltage transmission and distribution lines by the World Bank in North East will facilitate not the construction of more than 200 mega dams, which has met with strong objections from indigenous communities in NE for social and environmental impacts.

Issues around WB funded projects and development processes across India’s NE

Non-recognition of Indigenous Peoples rights: The undermining of the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples is a significant concern in the financing of multiple projects by financial institutions across the North East region, including the massive infrastructure financings, roads, high voltage transmission and distribution lines, extractive industries and the policy dilutions guided by financial institutions. The installation and erection of the High Voltage transmission and distribution has been carried out forcibly relying on the law enforcing agencies and in forceful clearing of vegetables, plants and in removing houses for stringing the wires. The stringing of high voltage transmission lines are directly laid over the houses of communities without the consent of the affected families and without considering social, health and environment impacts on them. The primary impact of WB funded Lafarge mining in Meghalaya is loss of land due to arbitrary land transfer that undermines traditional decision making institutions. The land transfer to the mining companies in the case of Lafarge mining involves the violation of the Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act of 1971 , which was enacted to protect land from alienation.

Loss of Livelihood: Loss of livelihood has occurred due to take over of agricultural land and forest resources for Lafarge mining project. Rice, betel nut, oranges are some key produces of Shella, however a large portion taken by Lafarge has kept out local people to do their activities. The loss of agricultural and forest land has deprived local affected Khasi people from their ancestral land but also from their meager livelihood source. About Ten houses are directly affected in Sagoltongba Village in Manipur by the World Bank financed high voltage transmission lines. Trees, bamboos, vegetables etc which surrounds the houses are destroyed by project official and lines are stringing over houses without affected families consent.  Residents of Balongdai village in Tamenglong are worried of passing under the high voltage wires to work in their agriculture land. Villagers are worried as the PGCIL warned them not to venture under the high wires once the high voltage transmission lines commence full operation.

Environment Impacts: Assessing the detailed impacts of World Bank financed projects on the land, people, environment, culture; health etc with rightful participation of communities remains a challenge. The impacts of World Bank funded 400 KV high voltage transmission and distribution lines, such as the impacts of electromagnetic waves on humans have not been conducted. The limestone mining by Lafarge in Meghalaya with IFC financing is afflicted with violation of Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and the Forest Rights Act, 2006 by IFC . The use of heavy explosive materials in blasting hills for limestone led to cracks in earth and drying up of water sources and spring .

Impacts of Privatization: The creation of an enabling environment for private sector across India’s NE is evident in the increased financing by IFIs. World Bank, ADB and JICA etc embarked on a development framework and processes oriented towards a completely liberalized environment and trade rules imposed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that include the removal of all barriers to trade and business and an emphasis on private sector oriented development. India developed the PPP policy in 2011. Section 4 of the PPP policy 2011 underscored the Government’s intends to increase interface with financial institutions and the private sector . The Government of India introduced a new Draft Energy Policy in July 2017 to promote energy projects throughout India again with emphasis on private sector role. There is a process to weaken the Forest Rights Act of 2006 and the Land Acquisition Act of 2013.  The policy prescription of IFIs for increased role of private sector in all the sectoral financing has led to intensification of privatization of services, such as water and power supply.

Undermining Human Rights and IFIs won Safeguards: The non-application of human rights standards and the violation of own safeguard standards of IFIs is also a major concern. The Lafarge has failed to adhere to the World Bank safeguard policies on Indigenous Peoples, Rehabilitation and Resettlement etc. The pursuance of World Bank financed high voltage transmission and distribution line in Manipur also failed to apply its safeguard policies on rehabilitation and resettlement, disclosure of information and on impact assessments on indigenous peoples.

Conflict and fragility: The pursuance of unsustainable and destructive development processes pushed indigenous peoples to the periphery of survival, compelling them to consolidate and deepen their struggle for their self-determined rights, for defense of their land, their livelihood, and survival and for the rights and dignity as peoples. Increased restriction on the function of human rights organizations and targeting of human rights leaders is also an increasing phenomenon in Manipur and across India’s North East. The violation and curtailment of peoples’ rights, destroying their environment, their polity and self-determination further induced multilayered tensions and conflict. The persisting conflict situation in places like Manipur and the Government’s insistence on militaristic forms of development, including increased curtailing of civil society voices and spaces becomes a reality of concern. India’s militarization through enactment of special legislations and emergency laws in contravention of international laws, which has been extended repeatedly, is primarily considered as central to ensure India’s control and provision of security for key infrastructures essential for advancing India’s commercial and political interest in NE India and beyond. There are concerns that the continued imposition of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, that derogate right to Life and right to justice also facilitates neoliberal model of development and corporatization and plunder of land and resources.

Conclusions: The IMF / World Bank Annual meeting brings forth the necessity to reflect the realities and challenges of World Bank financing in India’s North East region and beyond. The decisions adopted in Bali will have far reaching implications in the region. For instance, the overt focus on financing infrastructure projects, privatization of development and fostering free trade and privatization of development in the IMF / World Bank meeting will further reinforce the persisting neoliberal development model pursued in India’s North East with increased assault on peoples land and natural resources. Indeed, the projects financed by World Bank and other IFIs are focusing on infrastructure projects, ranging from road projects, water ways, high voltage transmission and distribution lines. The high voltage transmission and distribution lines across North East India will only facilitate the construction of more than Two Hundred mega dams across the region. Such overwhelming emphasis on privatization and the role of corporate entities led to uncontrolled plunder of natural resources in the region and privatization of services, with subsequent impoverishment of communities.

Many of the project financed by the World Bank such as the limestone mining by Lafarge in Meghalaya has failed to respect the indigenous peoples’ customary laws and relationship with their land and resources. Such projects pursued in the pretext of combating poverty, ending inequality and fostering sustainable development only wrought more sufferings and inconveniences to communities. The implementation of World Bank standards on advancing indigenous peoples rights, environmental sustainability, rehabilitation and resettlement etc remains another serious concern across the NE region.

The failure to involve indigenous peoples affected by the dominant development introduced in South Asia and the militaristic approach adopted in pursuing such development model by the participating States, Corporate bodies and IFIs and the complete exclusion from development decision making and non-recognition of their rights will only fuel multilayered conflict.

The rightful involvement of communities and civil societies in development decision making financed by IFIs remains a clear concern. The organizers of the Peoples Global Conference against IMF and World Bank expressed concern with the closing down of their summit by Indonesian Government and for stopping them to raise critical voices of dissent of World Bank and IMF policies. The IMF and World Bank caused the deplorable condition of peoples of poor and underdeveloped countries suffering from years of economic plunder by transnational corporations, abetted by IFI financing. The concerns raised by civil societies, especially the voices of those affected by the neoliberal policies and unsustainable development projects need be seriously considered for any effort to bring equality and to end poverty. Suppressing the legitimate voices raised by communities and their organizations will only constitute muffling much needed democratization and also to serve the real development objectives.

The critical perception of financing by World Bank and other IFIs is critical as Manipur and other North East States developed grandeur plans to realize Sustainable Development Goals and climate change mitigation plans, with financing World Bank, ADB and JICA. The free trade agenda pursued by ASEAN countries alongside with other emerging economics like India need be carefully examined for their relevance and impacts in Manipur. The realities of challenges of World Bank funding across North East India, in South East Asia, such as Nam Theun II dam and land grabbing in Ethiopia etc should be an eye opener for indigenous peoples of Manipur, to be more critical of the development processes facilitated by World Bank. Otherwise, the pursuance of very development model causing resource plunder, environment impacts and unsustainability will intensify marginalization, impoverishment of indigenous communities, while complicating the pattern and manifestation of conflict. A development model rooted in the wishes and aspirations of the indigenous people, rooted in human rights, protection of environment integrity, focusing on alternative development model compatible to the economic and political needs and wishes of all marginalized communities is much crucial to usher meaningful and sustainable development and to end poverty and inequality in Manipur and in NE region.

(mangangmacha@gmail.com)

CRAM sharing on World Bank & other IFI financing in Manipur in the Peoples Global Conference Against IMF / World Bank at Bali, Indonesia, 12 Oct

Feminists Gather in Bali to Criticize WB and IMF

https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/10/15/055922526/Feminists-Gather-in-Bali-to-Criticize-WB-and-IMF?fbclid=IwAR1C2-F5WgxXBepYrTig7nP7Bb2f6JCLxQn3ltyjyY-F8_JlAV1uySEL1MM

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – On Saturday afternoon, October 13th, around 50 women’s rights organizations, grassroots organizations, farmer organizations and workers from all over Asia gathered at Padang Galak Beach in Bali, Indonesia to criticize The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a Balinese ceremony called Larung Ceremony. During the ceremony, the women affected by the development project funded by the World Bank or supported by the IMF, gathered to express prayers and hopes for a better future. This was done by symbolically giving Balinese offerings at sea.

Sringatin, Chairperson of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union, said, “For decades The World Bank and IMF facilitate land grabbing, privatize public services and weaken protection policies for workers. This causes women to lose land, suffer from very expensive public services, so they are forced to do informal work or migrate abroad. ”

Wardarina, a Program Staff from Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) said, “The World Bank and IMF often overlook the political, social and economic impacts of their policies towards society, especially for women who work as farmers, migrant workers, poor women and indigenous peoples. Both institutions seized our resources that should be part of our social protection. ”

“Our hope to do this ceremony is so that the world can understand our struggle as women [and what we] face every time. We want to invite everyone to unite with us and protect our rights. We want to explain that the ‘development’ project that the World Bank and IMF doing is wrong and is not the development that women want, ” said Titi Soentoro from Action for Gender, Social and Ecological Justice, Indonesia, which is also is a member of APWLD.

The Tolak Bala ceremony was followed by the Feminist Carnival event which was held on the 14th October, in which the women’s community gave testimony about forced eviction, land grabbing, and lack of access to public services. This testimonial was presented in various forms such as speeches, poetry readings and art shows.

Various women’s rights organizations stated that they are strongly oppose neoliberalism driven by the World Bank and IMF because it will only exacerbate inequality and cause violation of women’s rights. They asked world governments to move towards fair and sustainable economic model, namely Development Justice, which prioritizes community interests and protect human rights.

TEMPO.CO

CRAM sharing on challenges of realizing sustainable development goals in International Youth Forum on Human Rights & Sustainable Development Goals, 17-18 August 2018, Kathmandu, Nepal

Convention calls on Govt of Manipur to protect the rights of Human Rights Defenders in Manipur

The E-Pao.Net,  The 29 August 18

http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=news_section.Press_Release.Press_Release_2018.Advancing_rights_of_Human_Rights_Defenders_in_Manipur_20180830&fbclid=IwAR1E2VXaqzHBebu4mGJ1_b4BtaFos8MT-T5yFn3ijDCYlnTl1VHGZq2hJ_w

The Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur, Citizens Concern for Dams and Development, Committee on the Protection of Natural Resources in Manipur organized a consultation on “Advancing rights of Human Rights Defenders in Manipur” at Manipur Press Club, Imphal on 29th August.

Senior Advocate Khaidem Mani was felicitated in the convention on his appointment as Chairperson of revived Manipur Human Rights Commission. Mr. Babloo Loitongbam, Director, Human Rights Alert, Ms. Aram Pamei, Co-Chairperson, Citizens Concern for Dams and Development deliberated as resource persons. Khaidem Mani shared that revived Manipur Human Rights commission will endeavor to examine the controversial emergency laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 for appropriate recommendations, in addition to take steps to promote the rights of human rights defenders and to address the aggravating multifaceted human rights violations in Manipur.

The participants of the Convention resolved that the Government of Manipur should recognize the role of human rights defenders in conflict afflicted Manipur towards fostering democratic practices and culture of rights and to allow their legitimate human rights work without fear of harassment, torture and deprivation of their right to life.

The convention expressed concern with the arbitrary summon of Mr. Jiten Yumnam, a human rights defender on 13 August 2018 by Manipur police commandoes at Imphal West Commando complex, without any written order and reason and urged the Government of Manipur to stop all forms of intimidation, false charges, harassment, arbitrary detention, torture etc including to Mr. Yumnam and other defenders like Sadokpam Ranjeeta of Human Rights Alert and Mr. Ngouba of Committee on Human Rights and to ensure their safety and protection.

The Convention also welcomed the revival of the Manipur Human Rights Commission and urged the Commission to take appropriate steps to advance the rights of human rights defenders of Manipur and also further to implement the direction of National Human Rights Commission of India to uphold the rights, safety and protection of all human rights defenders of Manipur and across India.

The convention also urged the Government to repeal all emergency laws in Manipur, viz, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, National Security Act, 1980 etc that are employed to target Human Rights Defenders in Manipur and beyond. The meet called for the implementation of the recommendations of Ms. Margarett Saggakya, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders during her visit to India in January 2011 to protect the rights of all Human Rights Defenders in Manipur and across India.

The resolution also called for an end to all forms of torture, ill treatment, intimidation, harassment, degrading treatment and filing false charges against human rights defenders and also to uphold the UN Convention against Torture and the DK Basu Judgement against arbitrary summon, illegal arrest and torture of innocent people in 1996. The resolution also called the Government of Manipur to establish a policy for the protection of human rights defenders of Manipur in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, 1998. 

The Rimbi River flowing through the terains of West Sikkim.

Free flowing rivers are simply beautiful in addition to sustaining lives & health of nature. The Rimbi River flowing through the terains of West Sikkim is also targetted for dam building. River West Sikkim