Adani Is Teflon, but Toxic in Dharavi

ACORN International

            New Orleans     Vinod Shetty shared a link to a local news report from Mumbai recently that the Adani Group was putting up a billion of its own money to start their redevelopment work in Dharavi, the megaslum where ACORN has worked for the last more than 15 years.  The report was a bit of an exercise in premature certainty, since the story also said they still hadn’t finished their survey of Dharavi’s population, no ground has been broken, and controversy steadily swirls around Adani and the project.  This is standard operating procedure for developers.  Keep the hype going regardless of what’s happening on the ground, where we and others are still involved in a huge struggle demanding full relocation assistance and the right to return, regardless of how many malls and high rise luxury buildings Adani proposes.

We’re a long, long way from the only problem Gautam Adani has.  He’s been under steady attack on Wall Street from the Hindenburg Research firm for stock manipulation for over a year, and their report has been credible enough that it has wiped $90 billion in value from his group.  Still, he continues unabated in India with the categorical support of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his longtime patron.  How can this guy be so Teflon?

A partial answer lies in his own personal wealth.  He ranks as the second richest man in India at $57.3 billion.  Modi has argued that because of his riches, criticism of his company and its operation is an attack on India itself.  A lengthy report in the Financial Times legitimizes the concerns more objectively.  They found that two men – Nasser Ali Shaban Ahli from the United Arab Emirates and Chang Chung-Ling from Taiwan – who are associates of Vinod Adani, Gautam’s brother, own huge percentages in a number of the interlocking companies.  Insiders have reported two sets of books.  There may be violations of Indian law around “promoter groups,” setting limits on insider trading and concealing such trades.  Other owners are unknown fueling suspicions that their activity and these structure are ruses to “bypass the broad-based guidelines.”

All of this is heady stuff past my paygrade, but there’s too much smoke for there not to be a sizable fire.  Is this really the kind of outfit that should have the fate of 900,000 people in their hands?  We think not.

Until there is full transparency and an objectively rendered clean bill of health, the Adani Group should not be able to proceed in Dharavi.  Their effort to deny hundreds of thousands of residents’ relocation and resettlement should be enough to stop them, but that’s not the world we live in, it seems.  If people place second to profit in Indian and world economics, then at least Adani should have to be accountable on that score, if no other.