Hyderabad: Twentyfour HIV positive people were arrested at Hotel Novotel in Hitec City and taken to Narsingi police station as they raised slogans and took out a flash protest against the harmful provisions in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Trade Agreement, especially against Access to affordable medicines here on Monday.
Forum against FTAs and RCEP, Farmers organisations and other civil society organisations under the banner `People’s Resistance Forum against RCEP’ condemned the arrests. Earlier in the morning, Peoples forum took out a rally from Peoples Plaza on Necklace road to I-max circle and back with about 500 people from 26 different organisations from across India.
“The HIV positive people were not even given food and many of them were on medication. We don’t know when they will release us,’’ said Shankar, of DNP+, Delhi.
“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.
Wearing white T-shirts embossed with HIV POSITIVE in bold red, the flash protest by about 25 HIV positive people from different states led by Loon Gangte of Delhi Network of People Living with HIV (DNP+) and Koushalya of Positive Women’s Network (PWN), a network of women living with HIV with its headquarters in Chennai, shocked the negotiators and police equally as the protestors crossed two main gates and arrived at the Hotel entrance at about 12.30 pm in two vans.
They immediately pulled out placards and banners and raised a huge arrow mark towards the hotel which said: “RCEP: Secret Negotiations Happening Here’’. The placards read `don’t trade our lives,’ `Provide access to affordable medicines,’ `don’t increase prices of generic medicines’ etc. They shouted Japan,.. shame, shame; Korea…shame, shame, India: Zindabad, `FTAs kill domestic production of medicines,’ `Remove harmful clauses from aar..cep.’ (RCEP) and started walking from the portico to the car park.
Within five minutes, police and private security guards of the hotel, came in numbers and stopped them from walking further. A police van was brought in and they were forced into the van but not before a woman constable manhandled three of the women and was seen forcing them and pushing them. Then the HIV positive people displayed placards from the police van and shouted slogans in Hindi from the van door before they were taken to Narsingi police station. A couple of TV cameramen were stuck at Madhapur police station when they came to know that they were actually taken elsewhere.
Gangte, added that protecting access to medicines in India and beyond is very crucial. India supplies cheap but quality generic medicines to over 60 countries around the world and is known as the Pharmacy of the world and it is a tragedy that we are all arrested at Hyderabad which the Bowl of bulk generic drugs in India.’’ Gangte spoke from the police station.
“Millions of people around the world are counting on India to protect them against harmful provision in the RCEP Trade Agreement and it is the responsibility of the government of India to provide affordable healthcare to common people and not trade their lives with Multi National companies for profits by getting into these trade agreements,’’ he lamented.
“People living with HIV who survive on generic HIV drugs have seen time and again how access to medicines is undermined when trade agreements include provisions that limit access to medicines. We are asking the countries involved to drop four key provisions in the trade agreement that will increase market monopolies for pharmaceutical corporation and block access to affordable lifesaving generic medicines for HIV, TB, Malaria, Cancer and many other diseases,’’ cautioned Kaushalya, who is living with HIV for more than a decade and is a highly-respected HIV positive leader who has fought with the government that led to free ART in India in 2004. She is arrested with four others from Chennai and TN.
The RCEP negotiations between 700 members from 16 countries started today at Hotel Novotel, near Hitec City here.