India has historically been one of the World Bank’s largest recipients, having borrowed over US$100 billion over the last seven decades. With India’s shift to middle-income status in recent years, the Bank has found new ways to push its agenda on the country—by rewarding India for adopting Bank-backed pro-corporate policy reforms via the Doing Business rankings (DBR). Last year alone, India leapfrogged a staggering 30 positions in the DBR, but this jump has come at an enormous cost for both people and the environment.
The Great Ventriloquist Act: The World Bank’s Bad Business in India exposes how India’s one-track focus on improving its DBR has allowed massive environmental, labor, and human rights abuses to take place. Most appalling is the case of Vedanta Resources Plc, a company that benefitted from the removal of environmental safeguards and was able to operate a damaging copper smelter within the city limits of Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu—a mere 8.4 miles away from the ecologically fragile Gulf of Mannar Biosphere reserve. Not only has the smelter been responsible for massive environmental destruction, it was the site of a massacre of 13 activists protesting its expansion in May 2018.