Friday, 4 May 2007

Indor - privatisation about to take hold

Our group then headed off to the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. Madhya Pradesh is undergoing a huge privatisation process, not only in individual cities, but there is also a huge World Bank loan in place for hundreds of millions of dollars that is looking at the overall framework for privatisation across the state. Indor is one of the cities that is being prepped for privatisation, and measures are being put in place such as the removing of standposts, and increasing of tariffs. The community is at an early stage of mobilisation but now that these measures are being felt, and with the start of the dry season they were keen to hear for ideas about what they could do, and the book was very well received.

The programme was packed. In the morning we met with a community group who contain a mixture of activists, journalists, writers, professionals and others who actively take up issues in Indor. They were very interested in hearing about the successful case studies in the book, and also the struggle to challenge policies against the international institutions. There was then a detailed press brief (which resulted in some very good detailed articles about public public partnerships), before scooting off to meet with the Municipal Corporation who are implemented the World Bank and Asian Development Bank loans, before experiencing the problems of lack of water in the slums.

We visited a slum on the outskirts of the city that has no access to water, and there is no planned access to water (slums do not have legal status in India so are not recognised under state governments) – the best they could hope is to one day have a few standposts on the periphery, but this is not going to happen anytime soon. The only way these 300 families can get water is from the good nature of one individual who is letting them use his private well 2 km away. He allows each family 2 buckets of water a day. While this is helping the community for now it is simply not sustainable. Not only will this water run out, the time of collection means that families have to choose whether to try and get work for that day (they are all daily workers) or choose whether to have water – it is a desperate situation. And it was here that Julian delivered what I think was is best presentation – he shared his experiences of how the water wars came about in Bolivia, how there were so many similiarities with what was happening here, how the people managed to come together and mobilise. The water wars in Bolivia got 1 million people out on the streets to reclaim their water, and Bolivia only has a population of 9 billion. With India’s population busting at more than 1 billion this powerful mobilisation is an inspiration to anyone. It was so moving to see Julian explain how they managed to mobilise and work together, and how we believed that this slum could do it to. The amount of energy and determination that was felt by the group afterwards cannot be underestimated –and this is even after it had been translated from English, to Spanish to Hindi!

The day ended with a successful public meeting to launch the book. People here have really taken the time to read the book in detail and the presentations people are giving are really insightful into the different problems faced around the world.

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