Congress steps up anti-RCEP protests

 Congress President Sonia Gandhi with party leaders KC Venugopal and Ghulam Nabi Azad during a meeting with general secretaries in New Delhi, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. (PTI Photo)

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Thailand to negotiate a free trade agreement with ASEAN and its friendly countries, the Opposition on Saturday stepped up protests against the move claiming that it would sound a “death knell” for the Indian economy.

Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi summoned top party leaders on Saturday evening and issued directions to them to organise street protests in every district against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with ASEAN and its six free-trade partners that include China, Australia and New Zealand.

“We can ill afford to become a dumping ground for products, including agricultural produce, from foreign countries,” Sonia told a meeting of party leaders convened at the AICC headquarters here.

Youth Congress activists hit the streets on Saturday with cows and buffaloes in tow to protest the RCEP negotiations that threaten to open Indian markets to cheap dairy imports from Australia and New Zealand.

Sonia also asked Congress leaders to highlight issues such rising unemployment, state of the economy, agrarian distress and RCEP during the district and state-level protests planned between November 5 and 15.

This would be followed up by a national-level rally in Delhi in early December which would be addressed by Sonia, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders.

The Congress is also planning to rope in like-minded parties in this endeavour which has been timed with the Winter Session of the Parliament.

Sonia is also convening a meeting of like-minded Opposition parties here next week to draft a common programme on these issues.

The CPM also cautioned the Modi government against going ahead with the RCEP agreement with Asean and six free-trade partner countries.

“If India chooses to join this FTA, it will harm India’s manufacturing and agriculture and widen the country’s current account deficit. This will in turn have serious adverse consequences on employment and people’s wellbeing,” the CPM Polit Bureau said in a statement.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and a number of farmers' association have also criticised the government move.

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