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RCEP pact will deal ‘body blow’ to Indian economy: Sonia Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, November 2: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday launched a blistering attack on the government’s economic policies and said signing the RCEP agreement will deal a “body blow” to the economy, resulting in “untold hardship” for farmers, shopkeepers and small enterprises.
Her takedown of the proposed trade deal came as Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Bangkok where negotiations to finalise the long-overdue Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) had entered final stages.
Sonia Gandhi, at a meeting with party general secretaries, in-charges of states, heads of departments and frontal organisations at the AICC headquarters here, also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being too busy “managing headlines and events”, instead of acknowledging the “severe slowdown” and looking for a comprehensive resolution.
It was decided at the meeting that the party will hold a mega rally in the national capital in December to protest against the government over issues such as economic slowdown, unemployment, agrarian crisis and the RCEP.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the rally in December, the exact date of which will be announced later, will be addressed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, ex-party chief Rahul Gandhi, AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and other senior leaders.
Sonia Gandhi said as a citizen and as a member of a responsible opposition, it pains her to see the Indian economy under siege.
“What is even more worrying is that the government is in complete denial. Instead of acknowledging the severe slowdown and looking for a comprehensive resolution, Prime Minister Modi is too busy managing headlines and events,” the Congress chief said.
She claimed that the “cavalier attitude” comes at a price, “a price that millions of our fellow Indians, especially the unemployed youth and farmers and fellow Indians are having to endure”.
“As economic decisions have not damaged the economy enough, it is now ready to deal a body blow to it by signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement – the regional free trade agreement of 16 Asian countries,” Sonia Gandhi said.
This will result in “untold hardship” for farmers, shopkeepers, and small and medium enterprises, she claimed.
“We can ill afford to become a dumping ground for products including agricultural produce from foreign countries,” Sonia Gandhi said.
All eyes are on India whether it will finally take the plunge and agrees to the world’s largest trading deal spanning 16-Asia Pacific nations.
In her address, Sonia Gandhi also referred to the snoopgate controversy, saying, “the latest shocking revelation is that through the Israeli Pegasus software, acquired by the Modi government, snooping and spying activities on activists, journalists and political persons have taken place”.
“These activities are not only illegal and un-constitutional, they are shameful,” she said.
The party has also decided to hold a mass agitation between November 5 and November 15 at the district and state levels as decided earlier, Surjewala said.
The agitations across India and the Delhi rally will be against the government’s policies that , the party claimed, had led to an “economic slowdown, unemployment and agrarian crisis”.
Sonia Gandhi said far from creating jobs, recent studies now suggest that “demonetisation, a messed up GST and subsequent economic decisions of the Modi government have resulted in an unprecedented loss of 9 million jobs during the last 6 years”.
The consistent weakening of institutions, withholding of data and tampering with statistics have all resulted in the erosion of India’s economic credibility, she said.
“It is unfortunate that economic experts who point this out are ridiculed and labeled anti-nationals. Independent thinking and even constructive criticism are arrogantly brushed aside,” Sonia Gandhi alleged.
The Congress leader said no sector of the economy has been left untouched and all the economic indicators point towards a slowdown that is likely to be prolonged and more entrenched in days ahead.
Sonia Gandhi told the party brass that it was for the Congress to highlight these “anti-people policies” and create awareness on such issues
“The economic crisis is worsening by the day. The GDP growth, is at best only 5 per cent during the first quarter. It is not just a six-year low. This signifies deep crisis. This is a sign of weak demand, low consumption, no investment and, as a result no jobs. Unemployment levels at nearly 8.5 per cent is most disturbing,” she said.
India’s economic woes are not confined to the domestic front, she said, adding that inconsistent and defective policies have seen exports shrink at a time when India could have been a big beneficiary of the global trade wars.
She also slammed the government over women’s issues. saying no sooner than the recent assembly elections were over, the government gave up the “pretence” of holding down the price of subsidised gas cylinder and hiked it by Rs. 77.
Surjewala, underlining the party’s stance on RCEP, said India will become a dumping ground for Chinese goods and goods from other countries.
“We are seeing complete economic mismanagement and apathy of the present BJP government towards loss of jobs and towards the deep and grave crisis in agriculture sector,” he said. (PTI)