Free Trade Agreement protest

IMPHAL, February 25: The Heinoubok Awang Leikai Women Welfare Association, Bishnupur has said in a press conference that it has organized a mass rally cum public meeting protesting the India-EU-FTA was held on February 24.

The rally was flagged off by Thoiba Kom, King of Ichum Kom Village, starting from Ichum Kom Uyung Makong and ending at Shanti Bazar Bamon Community Hall. The rally was organized by HAWWA and in collaboration with Ichum Kom Farmer’s Club, Applied Biotech Farmers club, Waroiching Young Farmers Club, Leimaram Young Farmers club, Thoubal Young Farmers club, it said.

The public meeting was held at Heinoubok Bamon Community Hall at Heinoubok, Bishenpur District.

Nearly 1000 (one thousand) people participated in the rally, it said.

Babycha Mangsatabam, Social Activist stated that India Government has to be aware of the negative impact of Loktak Hydro Power Project commissioned in the state in 1983, which affected more than 80,000 hectares of agricultural land, it said.

It further continued that moreover, the affected farmers were not given any alternative livelihood arrangement. "We are bringing such issues to your notice as Manipur was self-sufficient in food around 30 (thirty) years back but today the state has become dependent on 60 percent of food imports (mainly rice) from outside the state," it continued.

Babycha Mangatabam stated that following the Indo-Myanmar Trade Agreement, more than 2 lakhs women have lost their traditional occupations.

She further maintained that the women in this state have already experienced the ill effects of free trade agreements, the release continued.

She further elaborated that before the Indo-Myanmar agreement on border trade was signed, handmade blankets, locally produced mosquito nets, quilts, and other household items were the most popular trade goods which were mainly produced by women entrepreneurs in the region.  However, after the commencement of the said border trade agreement, the demand of these goods suddenly declined steeply as cheap industrially produced goods penetrated into the state. Hence, these groups of women entrepreneurs lost their economic basis due to the said border trade agreement.  In such a situation, as mentioned above, women are the most affected, it continued.

Meanwhile, the meeting also made a charter of demand for the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi; Union Minister Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma; and Leader of Opposition (Lok Sabha) Sushma Swaraj.

The demands include that the India-EU Free Trade Agreement must be stopped; the government of India should debate the issue of FTA on the floors of the Parliament and as well as State Assemblies including Manipur; provisions for social clauses including human rights and legal remedy must be included in the proposed FTA; a white paper on possible effect of the FTA on the cultural, social and economic lives of the people must be brought out; a public debate on the same paper and that free and prior consent of the people must be sought on the lines of directives given by the ILO Convention 107 before the implementation of the provisions of the FTA, it said.

Chaoba Takhenchangbam of North East Dialogue Forum and Dr. Homen Thangjam, Asst. Prof., M.B. College also gave their views as resource persons.

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Courtesy:ISTV Imphal


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