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Indians in the Northeast protest the European Union Free Trade Agreement

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March 14, 2013

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-042-2012

13 March 2013
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INDIA: Indians in the Northeast protest the European Union Free Trade Agreement

ISSUES: Economic Rights; natural resources; mineral resources; barriers to trade; rights of indigenous people; land management; right to food; forced displacement; minorities; poverty
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding peaceful protests against the adoption of the European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Indian government. The cases took place on 24 February in Maram Khullen, 28 February in Chandel and on 2 March of 2013 in Thamnapokpi. Demonstrators called for transparency, debate in Parliament and state assemblies, environmental considerations, and respect for the rights of local indigenous peoples over their land and sources of livelihood.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Several peaceful protests took place in the Northeast states of India over the past month to address concerns over the implications of the EU-FTA with India. Protestors are concerned over the lack of transparency in the Bill, violation of the rights of the indigenous people, and the threat increased imports would make to local businesses and livelihoods. They have also voiced concern over the perceived threat of the agreement favoring large companies and pursuing corporate agendas favorable to multinational EU corporations to the detriment of locals.

An aspect of the proposed FTA includes removing tariffs for 90 percent of agricultural products between the parties, allowing for EU companies to gain access to a market that has been largely controlled by local producers, inhibiting the ability of locals to earn a livelihood, and causing the local agriculture industry to be vulnerable to global volatilities.

Indigenous Indians also voiced concern over the building of the Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur. The building of the proposed dams would cause flooding of huge forest areas and agricultural lands of the indigenous peoples, likely causing displacement of indigenous Indians from their homes.

An additional concern of the proposed EU-FTA agreement is the clause for establishing mineral extraction industries in India. These extractive industries have the potential to inhibit the livelihood of indigenous people in the Northeast, and risk the displacement of the indigenous peoples from their traditionally owned land, as foreign companies are given contracts to the land. Petroleum exploration in Manipur has potential negative ramifications for the indigenous people of the area as well as negative environmental implications. In fact the proposed extraction of petroleum in Manipur has never undergone a satisfactory public consultation.

24 February 2013: In collaboration with the Bianchi Social Care ministry, Senapati, the Maram Khullen Women Society organized a protest in Maram Khullen, Senapati district, Manipur. Over 100 Indians participated in the public consultation turned rally.

The protestors required that the Indian government discuss the agreement in Parliament and State Assemblies before signing it into effect. The protestors furthered their cause to demand that the Indian government respect the rights of indigenous peoples over their own land and resources in the Northeast.

Rally slogans included: "No to lndia-EU FTA" "People have Self-determination Over Land and Resources and Its Management," "No to Mega Dams," "Stop Tipairnukh Dam," "Stop Petroleum Exploration in Manipur,’ "Go Back NHPC," "Go Back Jubilant Oil and Gas Pvt Ltd," "Revoke MoU on Tipaimukh Dam," "Cancel Petroleum Exploration Licences," "We Want Justice, Equity and Rights Not Exploitation and Profit," "Free Trade is Not Fair Trade," "FTAs: Don’t Trade Away Our Freedom," "FTAs: Don’t Trade Away our Human Rights," and " Free Trade is A Deadly Exploitation of the Poor."

28 February 2013: A public meeting and peaceful protest organized by Partner Villages Development Forumat Chandel took place at Mini Indoor stadium with thousands of persons showing up for the occasion. The demonstration moved from the Mini Indoor stadium to the Office of the Deputy Commissioner. Protestors held signs saying "Free Trade is a deadly Exploitation of the poor", "FT Free Exploitation of the Poor", "Stop Chakpi Multi Purpose Project". The organization handed their memorandum to the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) as the Deputy Commissioner was out of office at the time of the rally.

The memorandum calls for informed consent of the people before the government ratifies the FTA. It requires that the government refuse the IT provisions of the agreement. Protestors also voiced opposition to proposed construction of Tipaimukh dam in Churachandpur and Chakpi Multi-purpose Project in Chandel district in Manipur and also to stop petroleum exploration in Manipur.

The Chandel specifically cites concerns over the FTA’s intellectual property provisions, which give the TNC power over seeds and biological resources past what is recommend by the WTO. Privatization of agricultural products such as seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers create the potential for monopolies. These provisions negatively impact small farm agriculture and inhibit farmer’s freedoms. Also of concern is that European farm lobbyists, large agribusiness multinationals and the heavily subsidized farms are lobbying for approval of this agreement.

2 March 2013: The Social Upliftment Centre, Thamnapokpi and People Initiative for Development rallied at Thamnapokpi community hall under Moirang district organized a sit in protest and public meeting regarding the EU FTA.

Adam of the Northeast Dialogue Forum said that the group had initiated several protests, rallies, and awareness programs across the Northeastern states regarding the FTA. He stated if "the proposed free trade agreement by India with the EU is signed in March, then the EU will have a hold over our natural and mineral resources,"

The forum issued a memorandum to the prime minister requesting that "existing position and draft proposals of the agreement be made public; the current negotiation on FTA to be discussed and debated in the Parliament and state assembly; to take in prior informed consent of the people before the signing the FTA with the European Union; to stop the proposed construction of the Tipaimukh Dam in Churanchanpur district; to stop the current petroleum exploration in Manipur and the exploitation on Loktak lake and to recognize and respect the right of the indigenous people over their land resources and its management."

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Free Trade Negotiations between the European Union and India were launched in 2007 amongst a desire in Europe to access India’s growing market and India’s desire to attract foreign investment. Trade between the two parties grew from €28.6 billion in 2003 to €79.9 billion in 2011. Talks are ongoing but a deadline for the agreement has been set for April 2013.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the addresses listed below requesting the following: (i) Establish transparency within the government in regards to the EU FT by making public existing negotiating positions, draft proposals and government commissioned studies; (ii) Initiate discussions within parliament and state senates on EU FTA; (iii) Observe the rights of indigenous peoples to their land and livelihood in FTA discussions

The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the United Nations Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises calling for an intervention in the case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

INDIA: European Union Free Trade Agreement should not be another curse for the northeast

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the ratification of the Indo - European Union Free Trade Agreement. I am concerned over the lack of transparency in the bill and the ratification process, as well as the implications of the bill to hinder indigenous Indian’s access to food, healthcare, and a means of livelihood.

The Bill also has the potential to violate of the rights of the indigenous people in terms of their access to food, security, and livelihood. The threat of increased imports and international business could push out the locally owned shops. This bill also has the potential to favor large companies and pursue corporate agendas favorable to multinational EU corporations to the detriment of locals.

Another concern is the potential of this bill to displace indigenous Indians from their homes through the construction of the Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur and the allowance of mineral extraction in the area. Compromising agricultural grounds for use in oil and coal mining would violate the rights of the locals living there.

I therefore urge you to:
(i) Establish transparency within the government in regards to the EU FT by making public existing negotiating positions, draft proposals and government commissioned studies;
(ii) Initiate discussions within parliament and state senates on EU FTA;
(iii) Observe the rights of indigenous peoples to their land and livelihood in FTA discussions.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minster
Government of India
Room No. 148 B, South Block
New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 230116857; 23015603
Email: manmohan@sansad.nic.in

2. Mr. V. Kishore Chandra Deo
Union Minister of Tribal Affairs
Sansad Bhwan, Room number 105-A
New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2307 0577
Email: jk.popli@nic.in

3. Mr Arvind Kumar Chugh
Secretary, Government of India
Ministry of Tribal affairs
Shastri Bhawan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road
New Delhi- 110001
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2307 3160

4. Mr. Okram Ibobi Singh
Chief Minister of Manipur
New Secretariat Building
Bapupara, Imphal, Manipur
INDIA
Fax + 91 385 2451398
E-mail: cmmani@hub.nic.in

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)


 source: AHRC