‘GRANITE State Launch Meeting in West Bengal’
May 13, 2005, Press Release
“India, I must say, displayed tremendous guts to agree to become a founder-member of so important and complex an organisation as GATT in 1948 within just a year of its independence, when its strengths and weakness in the field of international trade were yet to be clear,” commented Dr Asish Ghosh, eminent environmentalist and Director, Society for Environment and Development, Kolkata. He was delivering the keynote address at a meeting organised by Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) to launch their project ‘Grassroots Reachout And Networking in India on Trade And Economics’ (GRANITE) in West Bengal, today at the Rotary Sadan.
Dr Ghosh emphasised that the WTO rules were patently inequitable and were biased towards the developed countries. Developing countries like India face difficulties in the face of the developed countries’ attitude of side stepping the WTO rules to their advantage. He cited the issue of agricultural subsidy in the US.
In the morning session entitled ‘State Agricultural Policy, WTO and People’s Livelihood’ Dr Debal Deb from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, cited examples of degradation of the environment and loss of livelihoods in the name of ‘free trade’. He highlighted the case of patents being taken with impunity for some of our traditional seeds etc like pepper, jackfruit seed and such others. He also gave a litany of laws detrimental to India’s poor but forced upon to meet WTO requirements. Swapan Ganguly from the Paschim Banga Khet Majdoor Sabha (West Bengal Agricultural Workers Federation), speaking next, felt that the ‘assault’ of the developed countries under the WTO was nothing new but only colonialism in a new garb.
In the post-lunch session the topic was ‘Should Indian Textile Policy be Pro-Cotton?’ Both Bani Saraswati of the Sreema Mahila Samity from Duttaphulia, Nadia and Alok Goswami, President, Embroidery & Garments Hitech Manufacturing Association, spoke of their experiences in uniting discrete manufacturing units and expressed their concerns in the face of globalisation.
CUTS has initiated the GRANITE project in eight states of India with the support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and Novib (Oxfam, The Netherlands). The overall objective is to develop a network of NGOs working at the grassroots levels, focussing on the fields of agriculture and textiles, in order to increase their capacities to comprehend complex issues of globalisation and the WTO. This project, to be implemented over two years, would also undertake activities to convey the WTO-related concerns of these sectors to the policy-makers both at the state and the national levels, so that these concerns are paid heed to while formulating laws and policies.