IMPHAL, Dec 3: A mass rally cum public meeting was held today at Moirang in protest against the proposed EU-India Free Trade Agreement and Violence against Women which was jointly organized by the North East Dialogue Forum, New Life Foundation, Social Action Platform, Women Group against Discrimination and Women Action for Development.
Today’s mass rally cum public meeting was second in the series of such rallies to be held throughout the state. Earlier a mass rally cum public meeting was held at Moreh on November 27.
Today’s rally started from the playground of the Moirang multipurpose igher secondary school and concluded at INA Complex where the public meeting was held.
During the public meeting, Rose Mangsi Haokip, president Kuki Women Union Manipur, T Manglem retired Principal, Moirang Multipurpose Higher secondary school, Sobita Mangsatabam, secretary, Women Action for Development, W Ramananda representative from North East People Alliance, Joy Sharma and M Nabakishwor, secretary, Center for Social Development were presidium member.
W Ramananda, while giving brief note on the reason for holding such a rally, said the rally cum public meeting was held to highlight implications of the people of the Northeast particularly the small and marginal farmers and women in the context of the upcoming EU-India Business summit in Brussels, Belgium in December 10, 2010.
Ramananda also stated that 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). India would then have to change its protection of plant varieties and Farmer’s Rights Act 2001 if the UPOV is signed. This would not only cause cost of commercial seeds to shoot up affecting food security and livelihood but also severely affect biodiversity, traditional farming system and generic medicine sector particularly ART and anticancer drugs.
The proposed EU-India FTA mandates is unlimited intervention, access and control over resources for corporates. The retail sector comprising 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, he added.
Under this market access and investment provisions, EU companies are targeting privatization in energy and water resources sector, Ramananda said. 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 Northeast.
The various provisions of the EU-India FTA are like to significantly affect agriculture which supports large number of poor and vulnerable people in India. Women are particularly dependent on agriculture as they are mostly unskilled and have limited access to resources and paid low wages. Moreover the trade is not gender neutral and liberalization may affect women significantly endangering their livelihood and support system, Ramananda alleged.
After the meeting, a memorandum was prepared to be submitted to the Union Commerce Minister, Government of India through the Chief Minister of Manipur and also to the Governor of Manipur.
About 2000 student and women of Moirang participated in today’s rally cum public meeting.