The World Bank in India: good governance?
17.11.2003: The current world bank policy in India
The Government of India is waiting for money. Money from the World Bank, that is supposed to come in January next year. The agreed sum has already been included in the national budget, and with the possibility of an earlier election, it is all the more important for the administration to get hold of the funds quickly. But so far, the Bank has not made a final decision on the disbursement. They are still holding back in order to get the Indian government to implement reforms the donor institution characterises as crucial for the development of the country.
According to World Bank sources, the enforcement of three draft anti-corruption bills will suffice for the scheduled disbursement of the loan. The administration is now planning to enforce the laws without prior discussion in parliament. They concern transparency of procurement processes and empower the government to confiscate properties of public servants held corrupt.
By putting pressure on the government to implement this legislation the Bank is encouraging a deeply undemocratic process. Human Rights and Civil Liberty campaigners in the country criticise that World Bank loans are not subject to any form of public scrutiny and that the Bank does not utilise its levy over the government to demand an end to its support for human rights violations.
Mr. Kannabiran, President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), informs that the human rights situation in Andrah Pradesh, the state that is earmarked for the loan, is again deteriorating. He explains that extrajudicial killings of members of the ultra-leftwing Naxalite movement by the police continue unrestricted and that more and more civil liberty campaigners are targeted and killed. After a recent assassination attempt of the Chief Minister of Andrah Pradesh, threats against civil liberty campaigners have increased. Plain-cloths police officers abducted the president of the Civil Liberties Committee of Andrah Pradesh in early November and other activists received threats. Acccording to Mr. Kannabiran, the state is ensuring the impunity of the perpetrators of those acts, as the cases have not been investigated.
Activists in India maintain that the World Bank should insist on the government to denounce and discontinue human rights violations carried out by the police or people employed by the police.
It is, however, highly unlikely that the Bank will promote the protection of human rigths in Andrah Pradesh. The institution itself has recently conceded that it has been "less forthcoming" in the promotion of human rights within countries where it operates. Still, the Bank believes that by helping to fight corruption and improve transparency and accountability in governance it is contributing to an environment where people are better able to pursue a broader range of human rights.
It is rather ironic, that the loan the Government of India is waiting for focuses exactly on those "good governance" issues. But is it really likely that increased transparency of procurement processes will contribute to the protection of human rights in a state where the government turns a blind eye to extrajudicial killings by the police? It is difficult to see why the World Bank considers the fight against corruption more crucial for development than the fight against human rights violations.
By setting those priorities, the Bank contradicts its own claim that creating conditions for the attainment of human rights is a central and irreducible goal for development.
Ann Kathrin Schneider, WEED e.V.