Various people’s organisations from across India on Monday staged a protest against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement even as the 19th round of negotiations on it were being held here. The Forum against FTAs and RCEP, farmers organisations and other civil society organisations under the banner ‘People’s Resistance Forum against RCEP’ took out a rally from People’s Plaza on Necklace road to I-max circle. About 500 people from 26 different organisations from across India participated in the rally, which was held to register the protest against ongoing RECP talks here. Later, about 30 HIV positive people were arrested by the police as they staged a flash protest near the venue of the negotiations. They were protesting against the harmful provisions in the RCEP trade agreement, which hamper access to affordable medicines.
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“People’s right to dissent cannot be curbed and these negotiations should be conducted in transparent manner and not in secrecy. It is the responsibility of the Indian government to make healthcare affordable to common people and not to trade away by way of FTAs for big corporate and MNCs to make profits on by hiking medicines,” said Shalini Bhutani of Forum against FTAs and RCEP. Condemning the arrests, Shankar of DNP+, Delhi, said the arrested people, many of whom were on medication, were not given food. The protest by HIV positive people was led by Loon Gangte of Delhi Network of People Living with HIV and Koushalya of Positive Women’s Network (PWN), a network of women living with HIV with its headquarters in Chennai. Delegates from 16 countries were holding negotiations on RECP trade agreement.