Angry at news reports that the State Bank of India is about to loan Adani money for its Carmichael mine, campaigners in the Indian state of Goa have protested outside the bank’s offices. The action was in solidarity with similar protests occurring in Australia and around the world. It is the first StopAdani protest to occur in India. The protesters urged the SBI to reject Adani, terming the proposed loan ‘akin to funding the destruction of our planet and the extinction of our species.’
The campaign against Adani’s proposed coal mine in Australia was taken to the Indian state of Goa last Friday. Responding in solidarity to ‘snap actions’ that also occurred in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Suva, Wellington, New York and London, members of Goyant Kollso Naka held banners and chanted outside the office of the State Bank of India (SBI) in the city of Margao, urging the bank to reject a proposal to fund Adani’s Carmichael project.
Goyant Kollso Naka (GKN), which means ‘Goa Says No to Coal’ in Konkani, an Indian language spoken by the majority of Goans, is a people’s movement that has galvanised the local population against proposed coal projects across the state on the grounds that the environmental damage will harm Goa’s crucial tourism industry.
Reports in the Indian media on 17 November said that, five years after dropping an earlier plan to fund Adani, the SBI is ‘all set to offer’ a loan of US $675 million to Adani’s Australian coal-mining subsidiary.
The GKN protestors handed a letter to the SBI’s manager in Margao that said ‘in the face of the climate crisis this [the proposed loan] is akin to funding the destruction of our planet.’
The letter also warned that many SBI depositors would terminate their accounts if the loan to Adani went ahead.
‘There are too many connections between our movement and the campaign in Australia for us not to have acted in solidarity. Adani is an Indian group, the money is going from India, and we have also been campaigning against the same group here, so it was logical for us to join in solidarity,’ Deepika D’Souza, the secretary of the GKN told this correspondent.
A Confluence of Interests
Adani runs a coal terminal at the Mormugao Port in Goa, which is the starting point for a ‘coal corridor’ visualised to cut across South Goa to deliver coal imports to power plants in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. A master plan by the Indian government proposes ‘double-tracking’ an existing railway line, expanding a national highway and nine riverine jetties, and constructing transmission line that will constitute the coal corridor.
Campaigners in Goa have mobilised a people’s movement against the proposed infrastructure developments since 2016, D’Souza explained, when the first leg of the project – an expansion of the Mormugao Port – was initiated.
‘During the COVID-19 period, in June, we learned that the government intended to push forward with these developments – particularly the double-tracking project – and we felt we had to raise our voice against this,’ she continued.
‘If these projects move forward, the whole of South Goa will be destroyed. Goa is a state that depends on tourism precisely because it is green and a little more open than other places.’
In recent weeks, the GKN’s campaigning has seen an upswing with an electrifying protest that took place in early November at the site of the railway-line expansion works. The campaigners have focused their ire at the Adani group, forcing it to issue a statement distancing itself from the road-and-rail projects (which are executed by Indian government companies).
Nevertheless, a fortuitous link between Australian StopAdani campaigners and the GKN has developed.
‘We had only twelve hours [to pull together the protest], but we felt we had to organise actions in solidarity,’ D’Souza said. ‘We felt the need to support this because first of all SBI is from India, and second, Adani is the biggest debtor and they want to give him more money when many Indian banks are on the verge of collapse due to bad debts.’
Protesters: Reject the loan proposal or face withdrawal of deposits
A small delegation from among the protesters met with the SBI’s branch manager at Margao following the protest, D’Souza said, and handed over a brief letter.
‘The manager was quite hostile to us,’ she said. ‘He suggested that there are many forums where we could have raised the issue and there was no need to come here.’
In response, she said ‘we impressed upon him that many of the protestors have accounts with the SBI and we have legitimate reason to come here out of concern for where our money is being invested.’
‘Failure to reject the proposal to fund the coal mines of Adani group in Australia will force the people to reconsider their deposits and investments in SBI and its associates,’ the memorandum read.