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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 16:28 GMT
Anti-WTO protest in Delhi
Protest in Delhi
The protest heard criticism of the government
By Jyotsna Singh in Delhi

Nearly 15,000 thousand people have protested at a rally in the Indian capital, Delhi, two days ahead of the next round of world trade talks in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

Anti-WTO protest
The WTO is accused of hurting the poor
Groups of farmers, labourers, women, slum-dwellers and low-caste Hindus or dalits came together from various parts of Delhi.

The protesters called for an immediate end to what they described as the self-destructive policies being pursued by the Indian Government in order to appease international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and IMF.

They condemned the government for what they called its failure to protect its own interests.

They were carrying banners and placards which read "Down with WTO [World Trade Organisation], Down with the IMF."

Government criticised

Those who addressed the rally included opposition leaders AB Bardhan and Mulayam Singh Yadav, former Prime Ministers VP Singh and HD Deve Gowda and environmentalists such as Medha Patkar and Vandana Shiva.

They accused the government of failing to put forward its case strongly at the WTO.

Deve Gowda et al
Former premiers attended the event

Mr VP Singh said there were serious doubts about the government's efforts which, as he put it, "claim to have raised the concerns of the developing nations without making any formal, written objections at the WTO".

The speakers also criticised the government's economic policies which they say had brought misery to the poor and weaker sections of society.

They accused the government of selling off its precious resources at throwaway prices in the name of privatisation in order to please the IMF and the World Bank.

Crucial elections

They said globalisation had affected the prospects for farmers because of a steep rise in prices due to dumping by foreign companies, particularly after India removed import restrictions to fulfil its WTO obligations earlier this year.

The Indian Government says it is committed not to allow new provisions to be included at the Doha meeting, and will continue to raise its two main demands - delinking of labour standards from trade and a greater market share for developing nations.

However, the protests against its economic policies are expected to grow - not just to coincide with the WTO talks, but also ahead of crucial elections in three politically important northern states.

See also:

26 Oct 01 | Business
India sceptical on WTO agenda
31 Mar 00 | South Asia
India eases trade restrictions
15 Aug 01 | Business
EU suspends Indian linen duty
26 Sep 01 | Business
IMF warns on global economy
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