Get your priorities right, seems to be the message from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to the media. The Asian Development Bank's 46th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors in Delhi NCR that started from May 2 and is scheduled to continue till May 5 has been in the news not for its mandate or the agenda set for the meet. It has rather grabbed headlines with respect to a supposed advisory in which ADB apparently asked its women delegates "to dress modestly, with legs and shoulders covered" to avoid sexual harassment. "Men should always wear a shirt in public, and avoid shorts away from beach areas...," the advisory read. More than 5000 delegates from 60 different countries are attending the meet.
The advisory also allegedly labelled Indians as 'curious' people, adding that asking people about their family, job, income and other personal matters came naturally to Indians and was not considered a 'nosey' taboo.
But Ann Quon, the head of external relations at ADB, in a blog on the ADB website, dismissed this as a significant castigation of India, saying that "our efforts to provide useful information to delegates about India on travel, health requirements and visas with links to relevant websites, have unravelled. A link to an independent (non-ADB) website on attire advising women to dress modestly with legs covered and that "trousers are acceptable but shorts and short skirts are not" has raised hackles. Upon closer inspection, we discover the web link was inadvertently provided and order it taken down. It is a close run thing when shorts and short skirts threaten to sideline the global economy, the challenges facing Asia and the biggest challenge of all - helping the poor, at our Annual Meeting."
The ADB meet is scheduled to address broader issues like whether the Asian economy can step beyond the boundaries of the 'world factory' tag while ensuring sustainable development and growth in a region where many people are poor and have scanty access to resources. Policy makers, leading financial institutions, planners, civil society stakeholders are deliberating on issues rising out of growing urbanisation, disparity in growth, PPP models, etc.