IMPHAL, August 6: The Hill Tribal Council and the Meetei Council, Moreh jointly organized a protest rally today, starting from Galngam Lentol (public-ground) against the Indo-EU Free Trade Agreement which is likely to be finalized between the Indian government and the European Union by December this year.
The protest rally passed through Chengjapao road via Moreh bus parking and Moreh market and concluded at Ima Kondong Lairembi Haraobung and was followed by a public meeting at the Ima Kondong Lairembi Haraobung.
Speaking at the public meeting, Homen Thangjam, consultant for Center for Social Development stated that the finalizing of the Indo-EU free trade agreement will negatively affect the trading scenario in the country and in the state.
Further elaborating on the negative impacts of the agreement, he stated that it will negatively impact the small time traders of the country as the big traders from the European Union will in all likelihood negatively affect the employment of local labourers.
He further stated that with the coming of the big time traders from the EU nations, the eligibility criteria of employment will increase which will also negatively affect most of the natives whose educational qualifications are low.
While further stating that the advent of traders from the EU nations will only increase the inflation in the country, he added that the living standard of the local populace of the state will not be able to cope with the components of the trade agreement.
He further added that bringing such an agreement which will not suit the living standard of the local populace in unwelcome, and as such the central government should consider its decision to finalize the agreement by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, Thomas of Center for Social Development in his key-note address maintained that, “India-EU FTA aims at restricted trade regulations, import licensing, mandatory testing and certifications of large numbers of products. Restrictions invite imposition, licensing invites control, mandatory invites power, certification invites ownership.”
He further added, “The core issue at hand is that none of the components of the trade agreement that is being negotiated at present have been consulted with the stakeholders.
He further contented that the local people will lose because the negotiations are without the consent of the people, in favour of the corporate and compromising on the rights of the general public.
Maintaining that the Indian economy is sustained by traditional occupations such as agriculture and like service, he added that after the finalization of the FTA, people relying on the traditional occupations will be at the receiving end.
He also added that more people are going to suffer as there is going to be restriction on access to food after the finalization of the FTA.
He further elaborated that the entry of TNCs and MNCs will hold its grip on the lives of the people. Existing small entrepreneurs will die or merged with the TNCs and MNCs, he added.
Further on the issue, the HTC and the MCM has forwarded a memorandum to the Prime Minister, union home minister and leader of opposition.
The charter of demands mentioned in the memorandum includes India-Euro FTA should be tabled and debated in the Parliament at the earliest. Further it has demanded that the India-EU should seek free, fair and prior informed consent of the people in the region as endorsed in the IOL Convention 107, UN Declaration on Rights of the Indigenous people and others before taking up any trade agreement related to land, mountain, forest, water, etc, which are traditionally owned by the indigenous people.
It has also demanded a clear definition of the link between trade and non-trade issues such as political conflict and human rights issues as violation of human rights in the region is grave and that there should be a strong mechanism to ensure social and environmental standard.
Today’s protest demonstration was also attended by Ravichandran, general secretary Tamil Sangam, Moreh, Surender Singh Pateja, general secretary Moreh Trade and Chamber of Commerce, Chinneivah, president Kuki Women Union and human rights activist, N Inaocha Meetei, general secretary MCM and various other local leaders and the general public.