The Guide






About Raj

Sardar Sarovar Dam

Why Did I laugh
And what a story it is.
50 million people
Trust me. Story is here.
Certainly India has progressed:
But most of its people havn't.
There is hole in the flag that needs mending
Why are they so keen?

Related Links

A Rejoinder - By B.G. Verghese to Roy's Article.
Debate - Roy's response to B.G. Verghese's rejoinder.
Recent Images - Domkhedi Satyagraha pictures
Sustainable Development - Concern for Environment

Why were they so keen?

Between 1947 and 1994 the Bank received 6,000 applications for loans from around the world. They didn't turn down a single one. Not a single one. Terms like 'Moving money' and 'Meeting loan targets' suddenly begin to make sense.

Today, India is in a situation where it pays back more money to the Bank in interest and repayment instalments than it receives from it. We are forced to incur new debts in order to be able to repay our old ones. According to the World Bank Annual Report, last year (1998), after the arithmetic, India paid the Bank $478 million more than it received. Over the last five years ('93 to '98) India paid the Bank $1.475 billion more than it received. The relationship between us is exactly like the relationship between a landless labourer steeped in debt and the local Bania-it is an affectionate relationship, the poor man loves his Bania because he's always there when he's needed. It's not for nothing that we call the world a Global Village. The only difference between the landless labourer and the Government of India is that one uses the money to survive. The other just funnels it into the private coffers of its officers and agents, pushing the country into an economic bondage that it may never overcome.

The International Dam Industry is worth $20 billion a year. If you follow the trails of big dams the world over, wherever you go-China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil, Guatemala-you'll rub up against the same story, encounter the same actors: the Iron Triangle (dam-jargon for the nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and dam construction companies), the racketeers who call themselves International Environmental Consultants (who are usually directly employed by or subsidiaries of dam-builders), and, more often than not, the friendly, neighbourhood World Bank. You'll grow to recognise the same inflated rhetoric, the same noble 'Peoples' Dam' slogans, the same swift, brutal repression that follows the first sign of civil insubordination. (Of late, especially after its experience in the Narmada Valley, the Bank is more cautious about choosing the countries in which it finances projects that involve mass displacement. At present, China is their Most Favoured client. It's the great irony of our times-American citizens protest the massacre in Tiananmen square, but the Bank will use their money to fund the Three Gorges Dam in China which is going to displace 1.3 million people.)

It's a skilful circus and the acrobats know each other well. Occasionally they'll swap parts-a bureaucrat will join the Bank, a Banker will surface as a Project Consultant. At the end of play, a huge percentage of what's called 'Development Aid' is re-channelled back to the countries it came from, masquerading as equipment cost or consultants' fees or salaries to the agencies' own staff. Often 'Aid' is openly 'tied'. (As in the case of the Japanese loan for the Sardar Sarovar Dam, tied to a contract for purchasing turbines from Sumitomo Corporation.) Sometimes the connections are more sleazy. In 1993 Britain financed the Pergau Dam in Malaysia with a subsidised loan of 234 million, despite an Overseas Development Administration report that said that the dam would be a 'bad buy' for Malaysia. It later emerged that the loan was offered.

( This article is posted by the expressed permission of the author, Arundhati Roy, obtained during her recent visit to Mumbai. When asked for permission to post she said that this article belonged to every one and has been posted many places. Originally the article was published in Outlook)

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Copyright 1999 Dr. Raj Mehta. All rights reserved.