Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat has termed the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) a gross violation of democratic norms and called upon the Centre to review it.
Inaugurating a rally organised before the Raj Bhavan here as a prelude to a mammoth ‘human chain’ linking the two ends of Kerala on Friday, Mr. Karat pointed out that the Centre had not cared to consult the State government before entering signing the agreement with the ASEAN. The agreement with the ASEAN could be seen only as the beginning of worse things to come. Provisions of the agreement would have disastrous consequences for the State’s economy notwithstanding the protective clauses that the Centre claims to have incorporated in it. The worst hit would be coconut and rubber growers of Kerala. The agreement might well result in Kerala losing its identity as a cash crop growing State and, unless resisted, several such agreements would be imposed on the country through the backdoor, the CPI(M) general secretary said.
Addressing the meeting, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan accused the Centre of having shown scant regard for the State’s concerns about the implications of the agreement. The State had tried its best to convince the Centre about the impact the agreement would have on Kerala’s agriculture, fisheries and traditional industries, but there was no positive response from the Centre. If the Centre did not heed the strong resentment about the agreement, as manifest in the ‘human chain’ programme, it would lead to even stronger agitations, the Chief Minister said.
Chairing the meeting, CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said any attempt to implement the agreement with the ASEAN would meet with strong resistance from the people of Kerala and added that any bid to market products from the ASEAN in Kerala would be thwarted.
Thousands of CPI(M) workers, sympathisers and fellow travellers besides prominent persons from different walks of life formed part of the ‘human chain’, organised as a mark of protest against the FTA with the ASEAN and took a pledge to resist the Centre’s attempts to impose neo-colonial agenda on the State.