WTO: Left to demand Parliament discussion

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: In a move to step up pressure on the Government ahead of the crucial World Trade Organisational meeting at Hong Kong this month, the Left and other parties have asserted that they would demand a discussion in Parliament.

At a convention organised here to ahead of the December 13-18 Ministerial round, it was decided to organise mass protest/rallies in various places, including Delhi, to send a "warning" against it. In addition, conventions were to be organised to coincide with the meeting.

Karat's demand

"The nation must be taken into confidence, the Government will have to give a statement [in Parliament] on its approach to the WTO agenda," the Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary, Prakash Karat, said at a seminar by the Indian People's Campaign against WTO here on Saturday.

Mr. Karat said when the Left parties in a meeting with the Government said they wanted a discussion in Parliament before the Ministerial round, the message was that the Left should refrain from raising the issue so that the Government's hands were not tied.

"If Parliament cannot discuss where can we discuss this issue... this proposal is not agreeable," he said, adding the Government was under pressure to agree to the proposals, including Agriculture, Non-Agricultural Market Access, General Agreement on Trade and Services and Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights.

To provide an instance of the damage caused by the WTO to the farming community, he said, suicide of farmers had gone up. In Wayanad district of Kerala as many as 57 farmers took their lives due to agrarian crisis.

The CPI general secretary, A.B. Bardhan, and the former Prime Minister, V.P. Singh, said international agreements signed by the Government of India should be ratified by Parliament.

Manoj Bhattacharya of the Revolutionary Socialist Party said the Manmohan Singh Government was under pressure from the United States, which was also "dictating" the country's economic policies. "If the Government cannot take care of the interest of 70 crore people whose lives depend on agriculture what are they for," he asked.

Mr. Bhattacharya said the Government should remember that the ruling coalition was being supported by the Left parties, a point that was also underscored by the CPI Secretary, Amarjit Kaur, who said minus the Left parties the UPA was in minority.

Suggesting that the Left parties intensify struggle and ensure that a strong message goes from the country at a time when the Hong Kong round was on, the CPI (M-L) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said the fight was not just against the WTO but the Government too which makes economic policies to support the international obligations.

Speaking in a similar vein, Samajwadi Party leader Sunilam said the real fight should be against the Government which agrees to WTO clauses without even discussing the implications of such agreements even in agriculture, a State subject.

G. Devarajan (All-India Forward Bloc) said the entire attempt was to capture every sector and said the effort was to enlarge trade to services sector something that was not envisaged earlier.

S.P. Shukla, former bureaucrat, who was the convener of the convention, said the agreement on agriculture had deepened the crisis in the sector. GATS that includes basic services was in corporate interest, he said.