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.