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Moirang Rally Against EU-India Free Trade Agreement

IMPHAL, Dec 3: North East Dialogue Forum in collaboration with New Life Foundation today organized a mass rally cum public meeting at Moirang where hundreds of people participated to protest against the proposed EUIndia Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The rally cum public meeting was organized in the context of the upcoming EU-India Business Summit in Brussels, Belgium on 10 December 2010.

The main purpose was to highlight the implications for the people of the Northeast particularly the small and marginal farmers and women.

Representatives of several civil society groups and concerned individuals participated in the protest.

According to a statement issued by the convener of the event, U Nobokishore, there is growing concern that the EU may prefer India to accede to the ‘˜International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants'(UPOV) or at least comply with a system of plant variety protection that favors breeder’s rights over farmers’ rights to seeds.

India would then have to change its Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer’s Rights Act 2001 to adjust to this demand.

This would not only lead to cost of commercial seeds shooting up affecting food security and livelihood but also severely affecting the biodiversity and traditional farming systems. Also will adversely impact the generic medicine sector particularly ART, anticancer drugs. An unfair system of patenting will lead to an increase in the prices of essential drugs and medicines, making them inaccessible to large sections of the population. The proposed EU-India FTA mandates unlimited intervention, access and control over resources for corporate houses.

While the people have resisted democratically the unfair economic policies pursued by the Government, an FTA would render such democratic process useless.

The retail sector comprise of small scale producers, traders and distributers-majority in the unorganized sector, where women play a prominent role if liberalized would lead to an increase in the sourcing of products from outside, commercialization of farming, centralization of distribution and sales would be dominated by larger outlets. This could have massive and detrimental impact.

Under Market access and investment provisions, EU companies are targeting energy and water resources privatization.

The FTA would provide legally binding framework that facilitates water and energy privatization. Thus the EU-India FTA would have negative impacts on policy making space, livelihoods and important goals such as small farmer’s resilience, access to medicines thus affecting the poor and marginalized people of North East. The various provisions of the EU-India FTA are likely to significantly affect agriculture. Agriculture supports large number of poor and vulnerable people. Women are particularly dependent on agriculture as they are unskilled, have limited access to resources and paid low wages.

Moreover trade is not gender neutral and liberalization may affect women significantly endangering their livelihood and support system. Keeping this in view the policy makers should rethink about the benefits of the FTA. There is no access to the texts or processes and is a matter of grave concern. In this context it is hoped that the media could be an ally in not only helping get out more information and texts from concerned government departments but to also amplify voices from diverse movements from the ground.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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