By Jiten Yumnam

INTRODUCTION: The Private Finance for Sustainable Development (PF4SD) Week, organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Development Co-operation Directorate in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC), held at OECD, Paris from 15th till 18th January 2019, brings together stakeholders from the public and private sector to discuss new approaches in using private finance to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Workshops, Seminars, Specialized Policy Dialogue on Effective Private Sector Engagement and Conference mark the events in the week. The “impact imperative” was the main theme of 2019 conference to put ‘impact’ at the heart of development finance initiatives. The week also focused on finalizing the GPEDC’s Global Guiding principles for private sector engagement.

OVERT PRIVATE SECTOR FOCUS: Using public resources to scale up private sector solutions, to raise Billions to Trillions for development results and impacts resonates throughout the PF4SD. For instance, the OECD session on “connecting investors to impactful clean energy investments in emerging economies with the OECD Centre on Green Finance and Investment” on 16 January overtly focused on bringing private sector to finance clean energies. During the session, OCED representatives maintained that there’s much opportunities in Wind, Hydro, Solar, Geothermal etc and emphasized mobilizing pension fund, philanthropists, insurance etc to focus on realizing SDGs through blended financing, which OECD defines as the strategic use of development finance for the mobilization of additional commercial finance for SDGs in developing countries. Creating enabling environment for clean energy financing by private sector with policy reform, subsidies and good returns etc has been proposed.

The OECD Session on “Guidance on OECD DAC Blended Finance Principles on 16th January highlights the endorsement of the Blended financing principles at the IMF / World Bank Meet in October 2018 at Bali and to further pursue the adoption of the Blended Finance principles at the G20. Principle 1 insisted on anchoring Blended Finance (BF) use to a development rationale and principle 2 intended to design BF to increase the mobilization of commercial finance.

The GPEDC policy dialogue on 16th and 17th January at OECD Boulogne further insisted on advancing the role of private sector through development cooperation to realize SDGs. In the opening sessions on GPEDC policy dialogue on “Private Sector Engagement through development co-cooperation: What is at stake?”, Mr. Bertrand Badre, Senior Communication Office of OECD opined that traditional ODA cannot fulfill SDGs and the trillions in private sector need be leveraged. He stressed on incentives and guarantees for private sector to achieve real sustainability. Principles of Blended Finance have already been endorsed by G7 and there’s an ongoing efforts for adoption by G20. Christina Moral, Head of Head Corporate Responsibility, Ferrovial suggested to move out of ODA and to mobilize private Equity fund, Philanthropic, Pension Funds, Venture Capital, insurance fund etc to finance in SDG projects. 300 Trillion dollars from private money needed for realizing SDGs and so need to convince private sector to move their traditional assets for the risk. Climate finance is already 35% blended finance with DFID, KfW, JICA etc strongly involved in renewable energy projects, Christina continued. Ms. Uta of the Germany Ministry of Development cooperation also stressed need for private sector participation to realize the 2030 agenda, FFD and Effectiveness Agenda and revealed the German financial arm, KFW already focused on blended finance in India, China and Africa.

Mr. Fred, Minister of Finance, Uganda however expressed concern around development effectiveness agenda with private sector involvement. He said Private sector and Govt don’t see eye to eye. Govt sees private sector as source of tax but private sector expect tax exemptions. The orientation of both private sector and Government need to really focus on development agenda. The enabling environment for private sector for ease of business is problematic for many governments, Mr. Fred continued.

The session on Policy Dialogue of GPEDC on “Generating benefits for those left further behind to manage Risks and deliver effectively” focused on providing risks and incentives for private sector. In the Session on “Building Trust for PSE to work at Country level”, Ms. Madelka Mccalla of AES Corporation shared how private sector is successful in building with communities affected by hydropower project in Cameroon. In the GPEDC session, “Scaling up effective Private Sector Engagement through Development Cooperation – Harnessing Contributions of all Actors by focusing on Results”, Mr. Alan, Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) shared Sweden has one of world’s largest pension fund and invested with World Bank collaboration for realizing SDGs. Mr. Mario Sander, Director, World Bank, Europe shared that in Hamburg Summit, G-20 agreed to mobilize private sector and vouched for stronger Private sector role in SDGs and cited the 420 MW Cameroon Dam project with IFC loans and Jordan Airport as good example of scaling up private sector role in SDGs.

During the concluding session of the “Private Finance for Sustainable Development Conference: The Impact Imperative”, 18 January, Angel Gurrero, OECD secretary general said that Development Cooperation and development focus should not only be inclusive, sustainable but also need be impactful and that Private public partnership and finance is important.  Dr. Sahar NSR, Minister of Investments and International cooperation, Egypt while stressing for improvement in business environment to attract and crowd in private sector, she called for more inclusivity and to cater to real poverty.

OBSERVATIONS: The OECD sessions, the GPEDC’s specialized policy dialogue on private sector engagement and the culminating conference during the OECD Private Sector week all focused on scaling up private sector engagement, to creating enabling environment for their role, to derisk their engagement, to provide incentives and guarantees for their role to deepen their ‘impact’ investment. However, there’s widespread expression of concerns with such overt focus on private sector engagement that resonates far beyond the concerns expressed by CSOs.

Concerns were intervened during the dialogue on addressing the risk identified by private sector. Creating enabling environment for private sector in realizing 2030 Agenda will entail deregulation of policies at the cost of community rights. It is critical to acknowledge the negative impacts of private sector on communities and nature. The policies formed on PPPs promotion omits provisions for recognizing indigenous rights or to ensure accountability of private sector in PPPs. CSOs raised concerns with Mr. Sanders of World Bank for citing Hydropower project in Cameroon as a successful case of private sector engagement. Several examples show how the involvement of World Bank in clean energy projects etc led social and environment impacts and corporate unaccountability, such as the IFC funded controversial mega geothermal energy project and wind farm in Olkaria and Turkuna in Kenya etc. Hydropower itself is becoming unsustainable in many cases in addition to the violations and non-application of safeguards in many indigenous areas.  Hydropower has been confirmed to contribute in aggravating climate crisis. Focus on innovative and sustainable Alternatives compatible to community’s rights has been proposed. Private sector efforts to gain trust should be rooted in human rights.

Mr. Fred, Minister of Finance, Uganda explained the difference in the perception and approach of Developed and LDCs on private sector. The SMEs of recipient countries is not supported.  Private sector does not bring their resources and there’s concern with sustainability of support from private sector. Ms. Paola, ITUC stated that concerns need serious review in Blended finance, to guarantee accountability of private sector in Development cooperation and to address the violations, risk and weakness of DFIs in the issues around ownership and accountability. Mr. Amar Bhattacharya, Brookinge also expressed concern with the exorbitant fees of PPPs projects financed through blended fiancé in infrastructure projects in Africa and concluded such fees as unreasonable and beyond affordability of the poor.

Ms. Beverly, CPDE explained that Private sector focus led to community rights violations, environment degradations, increased attacks on human rights defenders etc. The objective criticism of private sector is based on realities within communities. Dialogue based on the respect of peoples’ rights, inclusivity and democratic decision making development process is critical. Private sector should promote role of local and domestic private sector. All forms of partnership should be defined from respect of rights and not by economic and political hegemony of corporations.

Blended financing for SDGs focused during OECD sessions are marred with community rights violations. The Limestone mining operation by Lafarge with financial support from ADB, EIB, IFC, and several other bilateral DFI, the German Development Bank (DEG) in Meghalaya remains a controversial project with social and environment impacts on indigenous communities in Meghalaya. The Lafarge Surma Cement (LSC) Project, run by French multinational Lafarge received a loan of $45 million from the IFC in 2003. The Lafarge mining involves violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006[1]. The NHPC, the dam building public company in India even leveraging financing from the Deutsche Bank, JICA and Export Development Canada (EDC). The 2017 report of the NHPC confirmed that the borrowing for NHPC for dam building stood at Rupees 4274 Crores. KFW is financing the Pare hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh. The JICA and ADB have been co-financing infrastructure projects across Manipur and in India’s North East to advance private sector role and to facilitate exploitation of natural resources.

In Africa, the Lake Turkana Wind Power project in Kenya illustrates some of the many risks that aid subsidies to the private sector through Blended Financing pose for indigenous peoples. The project involved building 365 turbines and other infrastructure on grazing lands used by indigenous pastoralists. Much of the project’s financing came from ODA. Affected communities raised concerns with the land grabbing and unaccountability of those involved extinguishing their livelihood. The geothermal energy projects, Olkaria stage 1 to V, introduced inside the Maasai territory in Kenya with financing from the European Investment Bank, World Bank, KfW, Germany, AFD, and JICA, IFC, US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) remains one of the most controversial blended financing projects. The OrPower 4, an indirectly wholly owned subsidiary of Ormat Technologies, and the OPIC signed a long-term debt financing of up to $310 million for the Olkaria III geothermal power complex. The project led to displacement of indigenous Maasai villages. The controversial Turkana Wind power Project and the Geothermal Projects in Olkaria in Kenya are pursued as clean energy solution to mitigate climate crisis.

Across Asia Region, multilateral banks and DFIs also intensified efforts to leverage private sector to finance infrastructure, energy and climate change mitigation projects through Blended Financing. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has entered into an agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in March 2016 to establish a new fund to support private infrastructure investments across Asia and the Pacific to focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency projects[2]. The ADB and JICA intend to provide financing of $5 billion each to create a $10-billion fund for sovereign borrowers undertaking sustainable infrastructure projects[3]. JICA also signed a Master Cooperation Agreement with the IFC in April 2015, has decided on a cooperative work process in co-financing projects. The funds created by ADB, JICA and IFC for infrastructure and energy projects will intensify the assault on indigenous peoples land and resources.

There’s much assertion that traditional ODA cannot fulfill SDGs and the trillions in private sector need be leveraged to meet the multi Trillion dollars required for realizing SDGs. However, Mr. Khaled Sherif, Vice-President, Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery, African Development Bank expressed concern that when people talk of billions to trillions. He said he could not see billions or the trillions in poor and fragile countries, where real resources are required to alleviate the massive number of people reeling in poverty. For instance, Gambia’s GDP is only 1 Billion dollar and private sector failed to invest in these areas. The kind of investment in these countries are problematic and the focus is more to build road to gain access to extractive resources and market access for limited period of time, which fueled conflict and impoverishment. When oil and community prices goes down, these countries become dependent on ODA. So private sector need to create wealth in the impoverished countries and need subsidy for these countries. Mr. Khaled questioned if pension funds will step in these impoverished countries with no disposable income and assets.

CONCLUSIONS: The billion to Trillions and the ‘impact’ narratives for realizing SDGs are much overhyped. IFC data confirms private finance going in Kenya, South Africa etc with market potential, but not to impoverished countries. There are nuances in the definition of impacts and on who defines it. Major Private mining companies and Private equity fund seeking 25 % returns in extractive industries in Africa or in Asia consider mining activities as impactful. Major DFIs are reluctant to provide guarantee for impactful activities in conflict areas other than extractive, energy or infrastructure projects that can guarantees returns. Many private sectors don’t want to invest in education unless there’s high returns. With overt focus on market and returns, the target of realizing SDGs will be missed. For a real impact, polices need to deepen their impacts positively and to mitigate negative impacts and focus on real needs of communities, such as indigenous peoples and to low income and fragile economies and countries.

The OECD sessions focused on scaling up investment in clean energies, but more from the perspective of reaping opportunities for private sector, while remaining insensitive to the damages and violations due to such investment, primarily blended financing already visible in Africa and Asia. OECD aggressively pursued blended finacing even as a clear guideline for social, environment and human rights safeguard is still lacking and more so with guidance to ensure accountability of private sector involved in financing and project implementations. G7 already adopted BF rules with ongoing efforts for adoption by G20.

The OECD sessions on leveraging private finance during the Private sector week have minimal space for civil societies to share concerns or to intervene. The finalization of policies for private sector engagement by GPEDC need to address the risks, results and challenges of results and impacts, associated with private sector involvement in developing countries. A true partnership need be based on mutual respect, desisting from an overt focus on commercial impacts, uphold development effectiveness principles, respect of human rights, foster technologies and financings that benefits the people and nature and ensuring accountability of private sector involved in financing for SDGs.

[1] “Lafarge’s India-Bangladesh cement project remains frozen”, Julien Bouissou, The Guardian, 20 Aug 2010

[2] “ADB, JICA Establish $1.5 Billion Fund to Invest in Private Infrastructure’, ADB News Release | 30 March 2016

[3] “ADB, Jica set up $16-B fund for infra projects in Asia Pacific”, By Cai Ordinario | November 23, 2015, The Business Mirror


‘Dolaithabi Barrage Project has become a threat to locals of Saikul’

The Imphal Free Press, 2 December 2018

KANGPOKPI| Dec 1:   The Dolaithabi Barrage Project at Dolaithabi village in the adjoining area of Kangpokpi district over Iril river known as ‘Zildung’ has become a threat to thousands of residents of Saikul area.  People of Saikul area especially residents of nearby Zildung and even the locals of Saikul town including various educational institutions within Saikul Hill Town have been reeling under fear and hardships due to the closure and release of the project shutters on trial basis.

dolaithabi barrage

Pic: Dolaithabi Barrage Set to be commissioned

When the shutters of Dolaithabi Barrage Project are closed, the water levels in Zildung swelled up enormously and inundated vast areas of land with its impact reaching till Molkon village located 15 to16 km away from the barrage site.  Zildung is a vast river with immeasurable depth at some point; and when such enormous swelling of the river waters due to the closure of the dam shutters are released, it makes the soil loose and the water could easily carry away vast area of land. Currently, the Dolaithabi Barrage Project shutters are down and Zildung has been swelling up again.

Concerning the situation of unrest in Saikul area over the frequent closure and release of the barrage shutters, CVOs of Saikul under the aegis of Kuki Inpi Saikul Gamkai conducted an inspection tour yesterday from Gangpijang to Molkon.  Speaking to media persons, president, Kuki Inpi, Saikul Gamkai, Seimang Lupho said that the trial at Dolaithabi Barrage Project since the past few months has created a situation of extreme unrest situation in Saikul area. He also highlighted the apprehension of the people that if the water level swells up any further after the Project starts fully functioning it will inundate vast areas of land including paddy fields and residential areas, etc. mostly in the area nearby the river till Molkon village.

It is likely to affect at least 50 to 60 villages located nearby Zildung, the president of Kuki Inpi continued adding that commonly during winter season, Zildung, despite its vastness and depth, the water level in the river is usually low. “But now during such season, if the water level is in this condition imagine what could not happen during monsoon,” he said. In view of the prevailing situations, all CVOs of Saikul including KWU and KSO under the aegis of Kuki Inpi, Saikul Gamkai have urged the state government to address the grievances of the people before the official inauguration of the Dolaithabi Barrage Project in the larger interest of the people.

NE has Rs. 10 lakh cr mineral reserves yet to be exploited: GSI

The Nagaland Post,

Correspondent Shillong, Nov 15 | Publish Date: 11/15/2018 11:40:45 AM IST N_N28OVuis

India’s North Eastern states has mineral reserves worth more than Rs 10 lakh crore, which are yet to exploited, a Geological Survey of India (GSI) official said on Wednesday. The GSI is engaged in generating baseline data, and mineral exploration besides research and development projects on the field of geosciences, mining and exploration.

Noting that if these mineral reserves are exploited the region will flourish, GSI official said the mineral sector drives the growth of the country and not only does it contribute to the GDP, it also acts as a catalyst for the growth of other core industries like power, steel, cement, which in turn are crucial for the overall development of the economy.

“A total resource of 1642.64 million tonnes of coal has been estimated from the three states of Meghalaya, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh,” Mulkh Raj Jarngal, who is the additional Director General (ADG) and Head of Department of GSI, North Eastern Region, told journalists.  He said the region has a limestones reserve of 10108.6 million tonnes has been estimated from Meghalaya to the southern part of Assam.

“Dolomite low grade deposit is found in Arunachal Pradesh with a 58 million tonnes estimated reserve in Dedza and 185 million tonnes probable reserve in Rupa area,” Jarngal said.

He said Graphite with an estimated reserve of 703.015 million tonnes is found in Arunachal Pradesh. While clay with a probable resource of one million to three million tonnes have been discovered in Mizoram and Tripura.

Iron ore is found in Assam with an estimated reserve of 14.84 million tonnes. While Meghalaya has a total resource of 5.88 million tonnes of Bauxite.

An Introspection: Natural Resources Management In Manipur

By Jiten Yumnam, The Imphal Free Press, 21 November 2018

Aggressive development processes in Manipur: With the aggressive pursuance of India’s Act East Policy, Manipur and other states across India’s North East has been subjected to massive infrastructures, extractive industries, hydropower projects and other plans targeting the land and natural resources in the region. With the aggressive pursuance of India’s Act East Policy, the push for large infrastructure and cross connectivity projects and massive extractive industries there’s a pertinent question as to how and who managed Manipur’s natural resources. Is the people of Manipur assuming central role in the ownership and management of its land and resources?

Series of policies, viz, the Manipur Hydropower Vision, 2012, the North East India Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 and action plans to realize Sustainable Development Goals and to mitigate climate change etc are also formulated to facilitate such processes, also to realize Sustainable Development Goals, to mitigate climate change and to meet other priorities.  At least Thirty Nine (39) MoUs were signed with various companies and States of South East Asian  at the North East Business Summit from 21st till 22nd November 2017 in Imphal. The MOUs includes an oil pipeline from Numaligarh to Imphal, chromium and limestone mining etc .  The Government of Manipur signed MoU with the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation on 28 August 2014 to initiate four power projects, viz, 60 MW Irang HEP, 51 MW Tuivai HEP, the 67 MW Khongnem Chakha and 190 MW Pabram HEP projects over the Barak River, Irang River, Tuivai River in Manipur. More dams are planned under the Manipur Hydroelectric Power Policy, 2012. Massive oil exploration plan are pursued under the North East Hydrocarbon Vision 2030, formed in January 2016. Jubilant Energy, Oil India Limited, Asian Oilfields, Alpha Geo etc are selected companies involved in oil exploration related survey works in Manipur.

The aggressive push for India’s Act East Policy is also associated with tacit involvement of international financial institutions (IFIs), subsequently leading to an aggressive targeting of the land and resources . The World Bank is financing 400 KV high voltage transmission and distribution lines in Manipur. The Asian Development Bank is focused on financing road projects in Manipur and across the region.  Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is preparing to the fund the 66 MW Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Project in Manipur and the Water supply from Mapithel dam for Imphal Town.

Resource management and issues in Manipur:

Undermining of traditional land governance, management and land use system: A review of the persisting constitutional provisions and policies, both persisting and newly formulated or amended is crucial to understand the nature of resource management. Article 371 (C) of the Constitution of India provides a special provision for the legislation and the administration of the hill areas of Manipur, leading to formation of the Hill Area Committee (HAC). The HAC considers scheduled matters including the allotment, occupation, or use, or the setting apart of land (other than any land which is reserved forest) for the purposes of agriculture or grazing or for residential or other non-agricultural purposes towards promoting interest of hill tribes. However, the functioning and effectiveness of HAC remains a longstanding concern in Manipur due to its lack of actual power and politicization. The powers of the Hill Areas committee is curtailed with another provision that outlined, “Provided that nothing in this item shall apply to lands acquired for any public purpose or the acquisition of land, whether occupied or unoccupied, for any public purpose in accordance with any law for the time being in force authorizing such acquisition”. This explains why the HAC is often downplayed or sidelined in many of the massive land and forest acquisition processes.  Likewise, the powers of the Autonomous District Council, formed under the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1972 remains severely curtailed in management of land and resources .  The special provision under Article No. 371 (C) has been sidelined and undermined by the ongoing railway works, Mapithel dam, oil exploration, dam building processes etc, for instance in the diversion of forest and agriculture land etc.

A total of 19.135 hectares of Reserved Forest area and another 985 Unclassed Forest areas has been diverted for the Railway works, as outlined by NFR in Form A for Forest Clearance, without referring to the HAC. The community forest land is simply classified as “Unclassed forest”, in a clear non-recognition of community rights over forest. The traditional decision making process is undermined in the pursuance of development projects affecting peoples land and natural resources.

Development Aggression & failure to take communities consent: The mega development processes, policies and projects introduced in Manipur are fraught with non-recognition of community rights over land and resources, absence of consultation and failure to take the free, prior and informed consent of communities affected by such plans. The license to Dutch based Jubiliant Oil and Gas Private Limited by the Government of India, through its Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, for exploration and drilling works2 in oil blocks in Manipur in 2010 was carried out without respecting peoples’ ownership of resources. The Oil India Limited carried out Seismic surveys at Khaidem, Moidangpok, Sangaithel villages in Imphal West district since May 2017 much to objection of villagers.  The State Government has also signed an undertaking with Orissa based private company Orient for mining chromite in Manipur without the consent of the communities, where mining is envisaged.  The Forest clearance by the Forest Department of Government of Manipur and by the Ministry of Environment of Forest, Govt of India for the 111 km long Jiribam-Tupul-Impal railway is without community consultation and recognition of their rights. The proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project will submerge more than 27,000 hectares of forest land and the Government failed to take peoples consent for such plan for massive diversion of forest land for the dam. Indigenous communities are denied rightful role in development decision making affecting their land, forest and resources in Manipur.  For instance, the public hearings under the Environment Notification Act 1994 for mega development projects is only to hear the environmental matters and is flawed for failing to rightfully accommodate the voice of affected communities. The environment clearance for the proposed Tipaimukh dam construction was cleared by the Ministry of Environment and Forest of the government of India in October 20086, despite objections of affected villages in all the five public hearings for Tipaimukh dam.

tate’s Overt Dominance and Control of Resources: Major minerals and Oil and Gas are included in Union List of the Constitution of India. The State assured itself of an overt dominance over control of primary natural resources. All the laws of India, concerning exploration, drilling and handling of oil, such as Oil Fields (Regulation and Development) Act, 1948, the Oil Industry (Development) Act, 1974; Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land), Act, 1962; Oil Fields Act, 1948 confers rights to the Central Government and thus failed to recognize indigenous community’s traditional rights over land and resources. The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Ordinance, 2015 promulgated on 12 January 2015 has no provision to recognize communities rights over their land. The 1957 Act (24 A (2)) describes indigenous peoples as “occupiers of the surface of the land”. Further, amended Mining and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2015 accorded emphasis on the rights of Central Government on major minerals and has no such provision for consultation with communities.

The concurrent list, water and Forest etc is almost akin to Union List, with the Central Government having the final say and managed as per its interests. That also explains the nature of relationship between the State and the Central, the overt dependence of the former to the latter for financial and other reasons of powers. As per the overt push for Hydropower projects, Oil and gas, extractive industries and other ‘National Projects” like Trans Asian railway works in Manipur, the State Government of Manipur conferred forest clearance almost for all mega projects without the consent of those depending on forest for livelihood and survival. The Manipur Forest Department already conceded 311 Sq. Km of Forest land for submergence for 1500 MW Tipaimukh Dam reservoir. The State forest department is also on process to concede forest clearance for oil exploration, mining etc without any community role.

There are questions if the persisting and newly formed policies on land, forest, water, mineral resources management promoted community rights or environment integrity. Unfortunately, the North East Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 and the Hydro Power Policy 2012 negated community rights while consolidating more rights for Central and State Government and powers of the corporate bodies. The implementation of the constitutional provisions on resource management has also led to much contestation and conflict in Manipur. The implementation of the Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006 to ensure the functioning of the NHPC’s 105 MW Loktak Project led to violent displacement of fishing communities in Loktak wetlands in November 2011. There’s ongoing process to frame new laws and to dilute the forest and land laws. The Manipur Hydroelectric Power Policy, 2012, the Manipur Industrial Policy, 2013, the Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006 are all introduced sans peoples’ involvement. There’s process to introduce the New Land Use Policy (NLUP), 2014 to commercialize communities’ land and resources. There are concerns that the Draft Forest Policy 2018 will further extinguish community rights over forest with overt commodification and privatization of forest to increase forest cover and to mitigate climate change.

Undemocratic development practices: The Mapithel Dam, Trans Asian Railway, oil exploration in Manipur all involves the State’s reliance on these security forces to target communities calling for a democratic development processes. Criminal legislations like the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, the Indian Penal Code, National Security Act, 1980 etc were widely used to target community members for asserting community rights. The law enforcing agencies and also the military operating under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 in Manipur are also directly or indirectly involved in promoting oil exploration related surveys and in facilitating the Environmental Public Hearings, such as for Tipaimukh Dam or for Oil exploration etc.

CONCLUSION:  The ultimate issue is who should own and manage the land and natural resources in Manipur, the Corporations, the Government or the people? An obvious reality is as the local governance mechanism lay in shambles with limited powers and rights, there’s further reinforcement of the powers of the State and corporations over community’s land and resources. The oil exploration, mining and dam building processes in Manipur constitute an outright rejection of community voices and their rights to manage their resources. The reliance on the State law enforcing agencies and the military set up operating in the conflict afflicted state of Manipur also indicates how the Government usurps and negate community rights, an indication of the real nature of polity prevailing in Manipur.

The Government of India and all development stakeholders, corporate bodies, financial institutions  etc should recognize that all resources belongs to the indigenous peoples of Manipur and that they have exclusive rights to define and decide on the use, control and manage their resources. For instance, the resounding call of indigenous peoples of Manipur to the Oil India Limited, Asian Oilfields, Alphageo, Jubilant Energy etc to stop all Oil Exploration & Drilling and all mining plans in Manipur should be honored in practice. All undemocratic and manipulative efforts of oil companies and the Government to forcefully pursue oil exploration, mining, hydropower projects and large infrastructures in Manipur, including through corruptive and divisive manners and reliance on the emergency legislations, like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 and subsequent militarization processes will contravene best development and governance models. Several United Nations human rights bodies, while deliberating on the Mapithel dam and the proposed Tipaimukh dam in Manipur, have urged upon the government of India to respect indigenous peoples rights over their land in all development processes.

India’s laws with fundamental flaws, at community, State and National level, such as those related to resource extractive, oil drilling, dam constructions etc, need serious reviews for necessary repeals or amendments for compliance to best human rights, indigenous and development standards. Centrality on the role and rights of indigenous community’s rightful involvement in development decision making affecting their land and on resource management is critical for fostering sustainable development. An effective, meaningful and sustainable processes works best with recognition and exercise of communities’ self-determined rights over their land and resources.

The Karen people’s pursuit for survival in Northern Thailand

The, 12 November 2018

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
The writer can be contacted at mangangmacha(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 11, 2018.

CRA condemns attack on Ms. Agnes Kharshiing of Meghalaya

The E-Pao.Net, 10 November 2018

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

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

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.


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