SAN FRANCISCO -- The US-based corporate accountability group CorpWatch today launches a new website -- www.CorpWatchIndia.org -- to expose the social and environmental impacts of corporate investment in India. The first website of its kind, CorpWatch India works in collaboration with Indian activists to strengthen and link the vibrant movements addressing corporate globalization in India with those worldwide.
The world's largest democracy as well as home to nearly a third of the world's poor, India has seen a flood of foreign corporate and capital investment since it began opening its markets in 1991. As India opens up to globalization, more and more people are coming on line, including activists.
"CorpWatch India aims to build a bridge between Indian social movements and their counterparts in the United States and around the world. Together with our allies in India, we recognize that we need to be global in our grassroots organizing and also use the Internet if we are to achieve social justice in the 21st century," said Amit Srivastava, CorpWatchs International Programs Coordinator.
The current Enron debacle underscores the need for a website like CorpWatch India. As the crisis unfolds, little is known in the United States about Enron's significant role in India. In fact, Enron had the single largest foreign investment in India -- a natural gas fired power plant -- which started to unravel well before the Enron crisis hit the US media. In India, Enron has been dogged by allegations of human rights violations, ecological destruction, over-pricing energy, corruption, land appropriation and political meddling for nearly a decade. The company has also been the subject of many years of campaigning by grassroots activists in India as well as the subject of harsh criticism in the Indian media.
"If the US had heeded what Indians had been saying for so long about Enron, about its political connections, corrupt practices and disregard for their critics, they would not be so surprised as they are today," said Nityanand Jayaraman, CorpWatch's India organizer. "There are many other Enrons and potential Enrons in India today, and we plan to help expose them."
CorpWatch is also enlisting the help of the Indian community in the US. "With more than one million people, the Indian-American population is coming of age not only in terms of its contributions to the IT industry or the medical and scientific communities, but also as advocates for social justice in both countries," said CorpWatch's Srivastava, who has lived in the US for 17 years. "CorpWatch India plans to use the Internet as a tool for this new global activism."
Srivastava hopes Indian-Americans can help hold US corporations accountable for their actions in India. "Companies are much more susceptible to pressure in their home countries, where they project and protect their public image," he noted. "They are also subject to the laws in their home countries, which they conveniently forget in international operations. This project is an attempt to globalize the resistance against corporate abuses."
The CorpWatch India website will offer in-depth analysis, investigative reporting as well as action alerts and news from campaigns in India on a regular basis. Current stories on CorpWatch India include efforts to hold US based Dow Chemical accountable for the ongoing devastation wrought by the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, concerns over the privatization of water and waste management by companies like Vivendi of France and the controversy over Monsanto's Bt cotton for commercial use.
Based in San Francisco, CorpWatch works to hold corporations accountable on issues of human rights, labor rights and environmental justice. Our Corpwatch.org website is a leading voice and resource for the anti-corporate globalization movements in the US and around the world.