Congress president Sonia Gandhi
Congress president Sonia Gandhi

Sonia says RCEP will be body blow to economy, bring untold hardships to farmers

ANI | Updated: Nov 02, 2019 23:54 IST

New Delhi (India), Nov 2 (ANI): Congress president Sonia Gandhi said here on Saturday that any decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) will be a "body blow" to economy of the country and will bring "untold hardship" for farmers, shopkeepers, small and medium enterprises.
Gandhi, who chaired a meeting to review preparations for the party's countrywide agitational programme from November 5 to 15 against the BJP-led government on issues such as "economic slowdown, agrarian distress, unemployment" and proposed RCEP, said the economy was under siege.
In a strong attack on the government, Gandhi said decisions of the Modi government have resulted in "an unprecedented loss of nine million jobs during the last six years" and India's rural economy "has collapsed" with growth rate hardly of two per cent in the first quarter.
Gandhi said that "consistent weakening of institutions, withholding of data and tampering with statistics have all resulted in the erosion of India's economic credibility."
She said that India's economic woes are not confined to the domestic front and "inconsistent and defective policies" have seen exports shrink at a time when India could have been a big beneficiary of the global trade wars.
"As if the government's economic decisions have not damaged the economy enough, it is now ready to deal a body blow to it by signing the RCEP. This will result in untold hardship for our farmers, shopkeepers, small and medium enterprises with serious repercussions for the people. We can ill afford to become a dumping ground for products including agricultural produces from foreign countries," she said.
RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its six other partner countries.
She said the government was in "denial" over the problems facing economy and alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was "busy managing headlines and events".
"As a citizen and as a member of the responsible opposition, it pains me to see the Indian economy under siege. What is even more worrying is that the government is in complete denial," she said.
"This cavalier attitude comes at a high price, a price that millions of our fellow Indian especially the unemployed youth and farmers and fellow Indians are having to endure," she added.
She alleged that the BJP-led government had acquired Israeli Pegasus software for snooping and spying on activists, journalists and political persons.
"There are so many other issues of which you will be aware. The latest shocking revelation 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 unconstitutional; they are shameful," she said.
Gandhi alleged that the economic crisis was worsening by the day and signifies deep crisis and said Congress should take on the government over its policies and create awareness among people.
"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," she said.
Gandhi said unemployment levels at nearly 8.5 per cent was "most disturbing".
"Far from creating jobs, recent studies now suggest that demonetization, a messed up GST and subsequent economic decisions of the Modi government have resulted in an unprecedented loss of nine million jobs during the last six years," she said.
She said the government had steeply raised the price of the subsidised cylinder.
"I must also mention this government's attitude to women and issues that concern them. No sooner than the recent assembly elections were over the government gives up the pretence of holding down the price of the subsidised gas cylinder. It hiked the price by an enormous Rs 77 per cylinder about 10 per cent in one go," she said.
Gandhi said any reasonable assessment of the Indian economy must focus on the plight of our farmers.
"India's rural economy has collapsed with a growth rate of hardly two per cent in the first quarter. They were promised that their income would be doubled in a short period but are left to battling a deceleration in wages while prices have shot up. This perhaps explains why the sale of FMCG goods in rural India has recently hit a 7-year low," she said.
She alleged that economic experts who point to the problems are labelled as anti-nationals.
"Finally, the consistent weakening of institutions, withholding of data and tampering with statistics have all resulted in the erosion of India's economic credibility. It is unfortunate that economic experts who point this out are ridiculed and labelled anti-nationals," she said.
Gandhi said "independent thinking and even constructive criticism are arrogantly brushed aside"
"No sector of the economy has been left untouched by the slowdown - automobiles, banks, manufacturing, agriculture- of growth are all floundering. All the economic indicators point towards a slowdown that is likely to be prolonged and more entrenched in days ahead," she said. (ANI)

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