The Indian Economy Overview

The World Bank and India

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The Bank and B.P.D Project

In the name of tribal development, the World Bank has launched a huge project named, "Bihar Plateau Development Project" (B.P.D.P.) in the tribal region of Bihar. This project is meant to promote 'sustainable development' and 'improve' living standards of poor tribals in this region through construction of roads, irrigation and agricultural development and drinking water schemes. Incidentally, this project was approved in the International Year of the Indigenous Peoples.

The Bihar Plateau

The Bihar Plateau lies in the region popularly known as Jharkhand (land of forests). The plateau comprises of two separate regions the Chotanagpur plateau and the Santhal Parganas. The plateau is the richest region in terms of minerals, metals and natural resources.

Nearly 40% of the minerals, metals and coal deposits of the country lies in this plateau. Apart from being the richest region, this plateau is the homeland of Santhals, Mundas, Hos, Oroans, Bhumjis and several other tribal communities. For over four decades, this plateau is a target of continuous exploitation and appropriation at the hands of outsiders.

The benefits of these projects have accrued to big corporate houses such as Tatas and Modis, trans-national corporations such as Metchem of Canada, and financial institutions like IFC of the World Bank.

In the name of develop-ment, various large-scale industrial, mining, irrigation and power projects were launched in this plateau. These include Tata Iron and Steel Company, Heavy Engineering Corporation, Suber-narekha Dam Project, Chandil Power Project, etc. But the benefits of these projects have accrued to big corporate houses such as Tatas and Modis, trans-national corporations such as Metchem of Canada, and financial institutions like International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank. Only a handful of local people benefited from these developments in the shape of menial jobs, at that.

The Latest Assault

The latest assault is in the form of BPDP, which will transform the entire plateau into a 'global farm'. This is not the first but the latest WB project funded to develop the tribal region.

While recommending Rs 350 crore ($117 million) credit for the B.P.D.P., Mr. Lewis Preston, President WB, acknowledged the poor performance of the Bank-funded projects in this plateau. He admitted that "Most of these projects have experienced implementation problems causing delays in disbursement and completion.. Problems include: delay in project mobilization and procurement, poor quality construction and maintenance of infrastructure (irrigation, rural roads, etc.); inadequate preparation and implementation of resettlement and rehabilitation plans for affected families."

Interestingly, the B.P.D.P. is a part of the tribal sub-plan reduced to an area plan and other schemes. As a result, most resources are used for development of the region (such as roads, infrastructure development, etc.) rather than of tribals. The tribals directly benefit upto a mere 20% of the funding. The rest (80%) goes towards the development of infrastructure and maintenance of services. The direct beneficiaries are the big industrial houses, trans-national corporations and local elites.

The Projects Links with SAP

Moreover, the B.P.D.P. has to be seen in the overall context of the structural adjustment prog-ramme launched recently in India under the dictates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and WB. The series of policy measures announced by the Government include privatization, entry to trans-national corporations, export-oriented economy growth agricultural development, cuts in subsidy, charging of user-fees for irrigation, education and health services and co-option of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to give a human face to destructive developmental projects a la B.P.D.P. This project calls for radical transformation of agricultural practices in this plateau through introduction of new hi-tech seed varieties, cultivation of cash crops, increasing use of chemical pesticides & fertilizers and charging of user-fees for irrigation and drinking water.

The B.P.D.P. calls for radical transformation of agricultural practices in this plateau through introduction of new seed varieties, cultivation of cash crops, increasing use of chemicals & fertilizers and charging of user-fees for irrigation and drinking water.

It is well known that the trebles of Bihar Plateau have been cultivating food crops with traditional varieties of seeds preserved and developed by them over the generations. Even World Bank documents on this region acknowledge this fact besides use of human labour, absence of mechanization, chemical & pesticides inputs etc. Cash crops cultivation in this region is almost negligible.

Entry of TNCs

With the introduction of new seed varieties in this plateau, the entire food crop cultivation (which consists of rice, sorghum and millets) will be transformed into cash crop culti-vation. The big trans-national seed companies such as Cargill, Pioneer, Continental Seeds, Hoecsht and Merck are already looking for markets in the northern states, especially Bihar. The farmers of this plateau are introduced to new seed varieties, through the active participation of Birsa Agricultural University and NGOs. A new development in the tribal agriculture will take place. The new varieties of seeds require irrigation facilities, regular use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, use of tractor and other agricultural inputs, etc. This will ensure new markets to big business and trans-national corporations involved in agro-chemicals, agricultural machinery businesses.

A novel way of the World Bank's poverty alleviation scheme by taxing the poor tribals and doling out subsidized infrastructure and natural resources to big corporations !

The staple food based cultivation will be replaced by market oriented cultivation. 49% of B.P.D.P. funds are earmarked for construction of roads (1,200 kms) to ensure smooth delivery of agricultural products and livestock to newly developing markets and townships in this plateau. There is a special land law namely Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 which prohibits the transfer of tribal lands to non-tribals. But is observed more in the breach. A recent study of land alienation in Ranchi (a major town of the Bihar Plateau) shows that the tribals have been dispossesed of land on a large-scale by organized gangs and housing societies, allegedly for "public purposes". The market-oriented agricultural development of B.P.D.P. will force tribals to transfer land to big corporations and TNCs in the name of "economic efficiency". Eventually, the State Government will change the existing land laws to accommodate agri-business corporations. Consequently, the tribals will be left with no other option but to sell their lands to agribusiness corporations and migrate to cities. There are very few possibilities of tribals getting jobs in the mechanized farms of corporations because they are unskilled laborers. The significant impact of B.P.D.P. on Tribals would be through the introduction of cost-recovery schemes for drinking water, irrigation and other infrastructure facilities. No longer, these facilities will be available freely to tribal and non-tribal population residing in the Plateau. In fact, farmers will be asked to pay from their own pockets for the proper operation and maintenance of the schemes. The realization that heavily subsidized agriculture or agricultural inputs needs to be balanced a la GATT-imposed drastic cuts is being accepted. The model per se and not the principle should be questioned unless there is a view point. This is a novel poverty alleviation scheme of WB by taxing the poor tribals to provide subsidized infrastructure and natural resources to big corporations!


For further details contact:PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) 142, Maitri Apt, Plot No 28, Indraprastha Ext. Delhi 110092. India. Ph: 2432054 Fax: 2224233 email: kaval@pirg.unv.ernet.in


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