June 20, 2023

New Delhi: 130+ organisations and civil society leaders expressed concerns at the lack of transparency
and non-inclusive consultation processes adopted by the Union Government in the negotiations for
entering into free trade, comprehensive economic partnership or investment related agreements. In an
open letter to the Govt of India on Tuesday, they referred to the ongoing negotiations with several
countries, including the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Israel and the European
Prominent among the signatories are, Jawhar Sircar, Member of Parliament; Shailesh Gandhi, former
Chief Information Commissioner; Madhu Bhaduri, former Ambassador; Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao
Andolan; Annie Raja, National Federation of Indian Women; Teesta Setalvad, Social Activist; Gautam
Mody, NTUI; Viju Krishnan, All India Kisan Sabha; Prafulla Samantara and Meera Sanghamitra, National
Alliance of People’s Movements; Nikhil Dey, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan; Navsharan Singh,
Researcher; Kavita Krishnan, Feminist activist and author; Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group;
Cedric Prakash, Human Rights and Peace Activist; Devaki Jain, Feminist Economist; Dinesh Abrol, former
Prof JNU; M.G. Devasahaym, former civil servant and Sharad Behar, former Chief Secretary, Govt of
Madhya Pradesh and several others.
The open letter is significant in the context of the fifth round of negotiations between India and European
Union, currently ongoing in Brussels. India and the 27-nation bloc resumed negotiations in June 2022,
after a gap of over eight years on the proposed agreements on trade and investments. The EU is India’s
third largest trading partner, accounting for €88 billion worth of trade in goods in 2021 or 10.8% of total
Indian trade. India is the EU’s 10th largest trading partner, accounting for 2.1% of EU total trade in goods.
Looking at the possible fallout of a non-transparent process, the open letter said, “This non-consultative
and exclusionary process signals a disregard for the questions of human rights, social justice and
environmental impacts that wider stakeholder involvement would put on the table.” It also said that the
Parliament must therefore deliberate on the implications of the proposed legislative changes for the lives,
livelihoods and well-being of all citizens, particularly the most vulnerable groups.
The full statement with the complete list of signatories is attached.

Kalyani Menon Sen: 99103 06382
Venkitesh Nayak: 98710 50555

Open Letter to the Government of India

deeply concerned at and anguished by the lack of transparency and non-inclusive consultation
processes adopted by the Union Government in the negotiations with a several countries such as the
United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Israel and the European Union for entering into
free trade, comprehensive economic partnership or investment related agreements. Despite its twin
promises of greater openness in government and cooperative federalism, the NDA Government
continues to pursue opaque and limited consultation processes that characterised similar free trade
agreement (FTA) negotiations with other countries under previous regimes.
Even as we express our concerns on the subject, the European Commission (EC) is holding
consultations and dialogues with civil society stakeholders in the EU member-states on the social
impact assessment (SIA) of the proposed FTA with India. Meanwhile, we in India, are expected to be
satisfied with an occasional tweet on the progress of the negotiations and brief press notes from the
Commerce Ministry about the visit of high-level delegations. The rare statements made by the
Commerce Minister or the Foreign Minister are aimed at captains of business and industry and the
foreign media. The millions of farmers, workers, artisans, fisherfolk, small businesses, gig workers,
home-based workers and others who will be affected by these FTAs are completely invisible in these
In addition to its failure to proactively engage and share information with different stakeholders, the
Union Government is also rejecting formal requests for even basic details about such matters. For
example, an application submitted under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) seeking
information about the agenda and the minutes of ministerial meetings with visiting EU delegations,
representations received from business and trade representatives seeking to influence India’s position
in the trade talks has been rejected by the Commerce Ministry on grounds of national security and trade
secrets (see Annexure-1 and 2 for the text of the RTI application and the Ministry’s replies).
The Union Government’s rejection of even formal requests for information flies in the face of the
mandate of the RTI Act for meaningful transparency in governance and stands in sharp contrast to the
EC’s openness vis-a-vis its own stakeholders. Substantive reports of the four rounds of negotiations
completed and the textual proposals submitted to the Government of India are all available on the
website of the European Commission, for any person anywhere on the planet to access free of charge.
What the EU is proposing for inclusion in the FTA on more than 20 topics such as trade in goods,
services and investment, government procurement, intellectual property, sustainable food systems,
small and medium-sized enterprises, digital trade, capital movements and state-owned enterprises are
all publicly available on this website. The EU has even presented a textual proposal for both voluntary
publication of information and responding to formal enquiries from persons about matters covered by
the FTA. Unfortunately, there is no official intimation on this side of the Mediterranean about India’s
response to the EU’s proposals or its own textual proposals about these matters. Maintaining opacity
about India’s position on matters of immense public interest and importance can unfortunately give
rise to serious suspicion as to whether the Government is being nose-led in the course of these talks.

Of particular concern to us is also the absence of an obligation on the Union Government to consult
with Parliament on FTA-related matters. The Constitutional scheme of division of powers grants the
Union Government a monopoly over matters relating to bilateral and multi-lateral treaties, including
FTAs. Parliamentary approval post facto is also not mandated by the Constitution because the power
of ratification also vests with the Executive i.e., the Union Government. However, the FTAs could
result in the amendment or even scrapping of several Central legislations that are firmly in the domain
of Parliament. Parliament must therefore deliberate on the implications of the proposed legislative
changes for the lives, livelihoods and well-being of all citizens, particularly the most vulnerable groups.
The Commerce Ministry’s reply to one of the RTI queries states that it is holding consultations only
with Industry Associations and relevant Ministries and Departments. This does not inspire much
confidence. It is a matter of grave concern that State governments have not been consulted, despite the
fact that FTAs cover subjects under the State List and the Concurrent List. The Union Government
has also not opened up the consultation process to farmers’ associations, labour unions, environmental
rights and human rights groups, consumer associations and many others who are legitimate and
critically important stakeholders.
This non-consultative and exclusionary process signals a disregard for the questions of human rights,
social justice and environmental impacts that wider stakeholder involvement would put on the table.
We are concerned that ignoring these concerns at this stage will also undermine or short-circuit
mandatory processes of environmental and social impact assessment.
On the other hand, we note that the EU has initiated consultations with civil society stakeholders to
ascertain their views about the areas covered by the proposed FTA with India.
Given this starkly visible imbalance in the practice of transparency and inclusive consultation
processes adopted by the negotiating partners, we demand that the Government of India immediately
take the following steps.

  1. Give wide publicity and provide open access to proposals submitted to the EU by
    Government of India, as well as the responses to the textual proposals tabled by the EU
    which are publicly available.
  2. Give wide publicity and public access to the textual proposals received and responses
    submitted to other trading partners with whom FTA talks are going on.
  3. Create forums and platforms for public stakeholders and experts including civil society,
    academia and media representatives to submit their views on ongoing FTA negotiations
    with the EU and other countries.
  4. Ensure effective public participation in the negotiations by providing timely and
    comprehensive information on the status and details of the negotiations and holding
    dialogues and consultations with public stakeholders in India at each stage so that the
    negotiations are informed by the views and aspirations of all stakeholders.

List of Signatories:
Name Profession/Affiliation City

  1. Aasin Khan Social Activist Alwar Rajasthan
  2. Abirami Raveendran Unite London
  3. Adv Dr Shalu Nigam Lawyer Delhi NCR
  4. Ajaykumar VB Equitives Foundation Trivandrum
  5. Albertina de J. P. Almeida Advocate Panaji, Goa.
  6. Amani Student Delhi
  7. Amita Joseph Advocate Delhi
  8. Amitava Choudhury RTI Activist Kolkata
  9. Anand Athialy Student Pune
  10. Anantharamakrishnan Senthivel Assistant Professor of Criminology and

Criminal Justice Administration Chennai

  1. Anasuya Chandy Teacher Madanapalle
  2. Anil Chawla Retired Army officer Delhi
  3. Anita Cheria Open Space Bangalore
  4. Anita Kapoor Social worker New Delhi
  5. Annie Raja G. Sec., National Federation of Indian Women New Delhi
  6. Anuradha Development Professional Bangalore
  7. Anuradha Banerji Saheli Women’s Resource Centre Delhi
  8. Ardhendu Sen retired govt servant coimbatore
  9. Arun Kumar Retd Professor Gurgaon
  10. Arun Mohan Media Collective New Delhi
  11. Aruna Rathnam none Chennai
  12. Arundhati Dhuru NAPM Lucknow
  13. Ashalatha S MAKAAM Hyderabad
  14. Ashok Maridas Samvidhaanada Haadiyalli Bangalore
  15. Ashok Shrimali Social Activist Ahmedabad
  16. Avinash Kumar Researcher New Delhi
  17. Beena Pallical Independent Activist New Delhi
  18. Benny Kuruvilla Focus on the Global South -India Delhi
  19. Brinda Adige Activist Bengaluru
  20. Brinelle D’souza

Chairperson, Centre for Health and Mental,
School of Social Work Health, Tata Institute of
Social Sciences


  1. Cedric Prakash Human Rights and Peace Activist/Writer Ahmedabad
  2. Chinmayi Naik Working Peoples’Coalition Bangalore
  3. D Gopalakrishna Socialist Party, India Bangalore
  4. Dev Desai ANHAD Ahmedabad
  5. Devaki Jain Feminist economist New Delhi
  6. Devidas Tuljapurkar AIBEA Trade Union Mumbai
  7. Dhirendra Panda Social Work Bhubaneswar
  8. Dimple Oberoi Vahali Independent activist Delhi
  9. Dinesh Abrol Academic JNU TRCSS Delhi
  10. Divya Working Bhopal
  11. Divyansh Khurana Lawyer Delhi
  12. Dolphy Dsouza The Bombay Catholic Sabha Mumbai
  13. Dorothy Fernandes Social Action Patna
  14. Dr. Sanjay Mangala Gopal National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements

(NAPM) Mumbai

  1. Eric Pinto Nayional Alluance of Peoples Movement
    NAPM Goa
  2. Gautam Bandyopadhyay Nadi Ghati Morcha-India Raipur
  3. Gautam Mody NTUI New Delhi
  4. Geetha Devarajan Advocate Chennai
  5. Govind Kelkar Professor and Executive Director Gurgaon
  6. Henri Tiphagne People’s Watch and Human Rights Defenders

Alert India


  1. Inamul Social Activist Chennai
  2. Isha Khandelwal Lawyer Bombay
  3. Janakarajan S Professor, MIDS (Retd) Chennai
  4. Jawhar Sircar Member of Parliament TMC Kolkata
  5. Joe Athialy Centre for Financial Accountability New Delhi
  6. Jomon Cheriyan James Skiltrainer Kottayam
  7. K. V. Bhat Trade unionist. AITUC/JCTU Bangalore
  8. Kalyani Menon Sen Independent researcher Coimbatore
  9. Kamayani Bali Mahabal Independent Trainer Mumbai
  10. Kameshwari Jandhyala Independent consultant Hyderabad
  11. [email protected] Business Bengaluru
  12. Kavita Krishnan Feminist activist and author New Delhi
  13. Krishna Sharma Lawyer New Delhi
  14. Kurien Retiree Bangalore
  15. L Krishnamurthy Ex RTI Commissioner Bangalore rural
  16. Lara Jesani People’s Union for Civil Liberties Mumbai
  17. Leena Social work activist Ranchi
  18. Leo Saldanha Environment Support Group Bangalore
  19. Linda Chhakchhuak Concerned Citizen Shillong
  20. M G Devasahayam People First Bangalore
  21. Madhu Bhaduri Retired government official Delhi
  22. Mandar Prakhar Student Varanasi
  23. Manshi Asher Independent Researcher Palampur
  24. Mecanzy Dabre National Hawkers Federation Mumbai
  25. Medha Patkar Narmada Bachao Andolan / NAPM Badwani
  26. Meera Sanghamitra National Alliance of People’s Movements

(NAPM) Hyderabad

  1. Mohammad Chappalwala Sambhaavnaa Institute Palampur
  2. Mona Mishra Independent Researcher Delhi
  3. N Sai Balaji National President, All India Students’

Association (AISA) Delhi

  1. Narendra Gupta JSAR Chittorgarh
  2. Narendra Mohanty Activist, State Convener, INSAF & Campaign

Against Fabricated Cases, Odisha. Bhubaneswar

  1. National Hawker Federation 1300 Association Kolkata
  2. Navsharan Singh Independent Researcher Delhi
  3. Nikhil Dey Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan ( MKSS) Rajsamand
  4. Nisha Biswas Activists Kolkata
  5. P.R.Dasgupta Member of CCG Bangalore
  6. P.Vijayakumar Teacher (retired.) Madurai
  7. Pamela Philipose Independent journalist New Delhi
  8. Panchaksharam.K Founder / SIPA Fair Trade Chennai
  9. Persis Ginwalla Independent Ahmedabad
  10. Prafulla Samantara National Alliance Of People’s Movements of

India Bhubaneswar

  1. Prasad Chacko Independent Consultant Ahmedabad
  2. Praskanva Sinharay Centre for Financial Accountability New Delhi
  3. Prof Ritu Dewan

Director & Professor (R), Mumbai school of
Economics & Public Policy, University of


  1. Pushkar Raj Independent Researcher Melbourne
  2. R. Manohar HRDA India Bangalore
  3. R.Ravi & Ashok Shrimali mines minarals & People Vishakhapatnam
  4. Rachel Andrews Student Mumbai
  5. Rajendra Ravi NAPM, Delhi Delhi
  6. Rakesh Diwan Editor, Sarvodaya Press Service Bhopal
  7. Rakhi Sehgal Independent Researcher New Delhi
  8. Ram Wangkheirakpam Indigenous Perspectives Imphal
  9. Ramesh G None Hyderabad
  10. Ravindra Sinha Researcher Pune
  11. Ritumbra Manuvie University of Groningen Groningen
  12. Rohit Prajapati Environment Activist Vadodara
  13. Runu Independent activist and freelance professional Gaziabad
  14. S.Krishnaswamy (Retired Professor) PUCL Madurai Madurai
  15. Sagari R Ramdas Veterinary Scientist , Food Sovereignty

Alliance Hyderabad

  1. Samuel Asir Raj Teaching Tirunelveli
  2. sandhya gokhale PUCL, Maharashtra mumbai
  3. Satyarupa Shekhar Citizen Cuttack
  4. Shailesh Gandhi Former Central Information Commissioner Mumbai
  5. Shankar V AICCTU Bangalore
  6. Sharad Behar Retired civil servant BHOPAL
  7. Shilpan Concerned Indian San Francisco, CA,


  1. Sudhir Vombatkere NAPM Mysuru
  2. Sujata Patel Retd. Teacher, University of Hyderabad Pune
  3. Sukumaran Krishnan Lawyer Gudalur The
  4. Tara Murali Individual Chennai
  5. Teesta Setalvad Journalist, Human Rights Defender &

Educationist Mumbai

  1. Tejas Tinjan Law student Faridabad
  2. Uma Shankari Farmer, citizen of India Hyderabad
  3. V.Samarth Rao Law student New Delhi
  4. Vasundhar Citizen Mysore
  5. Veena Shatrugna Independent Researcher Bengaluru
  6. Vidya Dinker Indian Social Action Forum Mangalore
  7. Venkatesh Nayak Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative New Delhi
  8. Vijayasingh Ronald David Community organiser Kushalnagara
  9. Vijoo Krishnan General Secretary, All India Kisan Sabha New Delhi
  10. Vineet Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan Rajsamand,
  11. Vinita Balekundri Maharashtra Hawkers Federation Navi Mumbai
  12. Vinod Koshy Dynamic Action Thiruvalla
  13. Vivekanand Tripathi Social Activist Noida
  14. Wilfred Dcosta Indian Social Action Forum New Delhi
  15. Yashaswini Krishna Student pursing master’s in mass

communication and media Bengaluru

  1. Yashika Manav Dehli Girls Rising – National Confederation of

Dalit and Adivasi Organisations (NACDAOR) New Delhi

  1. डॉ.सुगन बरंठ सर्वोदय काययकर्ाय मालेगांर्व (नाससक)