Asian Social Forum to meet in Hyderabad in Jan.

VISAKHAPATNAM DEC. 7. The World Social Forum (SWF) will organise its Asian Social Forum (ASF) conference in Hyderabad from January 2 to 7.

Announcing this here on Saturday, the State president of the All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), S. Punyavathi, said that all issues pertaining to economy, debt, industry and commerce policies of Asian nations would be discussed at the six-day meet to be conducted at Nizam College grounds.

A debate would also be held on women and Dalit issues in a session and thousands of delegates from Asian countries as also from Africa and the US were expected to participate in the meet, she said. During the last meet held in Port Alegre in Brazil, about 4,000 from over 150 countries attended the meet, she said.

The AIDWA leader said Hyderabad was chosen venue for the conference as it was in Andhra Pradesh where the Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, was implementing globalisation policies under the diktat of the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, unmindful of the negative impacts leading to people's movements against hike in power tariff, irrigation, suicides by farmers and other problems.

``That was how AP came into picture. The conference will provide further inspiration and impetus to the people's struggles against the faulty policies. The conference will be platform for chalking out the course of action to counter them. A rally will be organised on January 7 and AIDWA will take an active part in the conference,'' she said.

Prominent among those who were likely to attend the meet were the former Prime Miniser, V.P. Singh, the former President, K.R. Narayanan and Laxmi Sehgal.

Ms. Punyavathi said globalisation had taken its toll on women and a survey in seven mandals in the State, including Kurupam of Vizianagaram district, had revealed that women were unable to buy even quota rice. Against 30 quintals offered by fair-price shop dealers, they could not purchase more than 12 quintals. The rice sold at Rs.9 per kg was also of inferior quality and they were forced to take frugal meal which barely saved the families from starvation death, she said.

``It is a pity that while six crore tonnes of rice was kept in FCI godowns and the Government was spending a fortune to ward off rats, the people are forced to starve. We demand immediate supply of 35 kg of rice at Rs.3 per kg to all families below the poverty line to save them and stop migration. I wonder where the slogans of women's empowerment, Swarnandhra and Vision 2020 of Mr. Naidu are leading to. We often come across starvation deaths during summer but now even in November and December they stare at us,'' she said.

The AIDWA leader said women of DWCRA groups were utilising their loans for investing in agriculture. They were forced to sell even their silver anklets and ear-rings to repay the loans. Since DWCRA was helping the farmers and not women, the loans given to DWCRA groups, at least in drought-hit areas, should be waived, she felt, and announced that a dharna and mass hunger-strike would be launched in front of the Collectorates and mandal headquarters on Tuesday.

The district AIDWA secretary, R. Bhagyalakshmi, and the AIDWA leader, Mani, were present at the press conference.

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