The Financial Express

04 November, 2011

Rights activists at a rally Thursday (03 November 2011) urged the South Asian leaders to make it a visa-free region for its people, aiming to reduce poverty through enhanced cooperation among the SAARC countries, reports UNB.

Eighteen rights groups under the banner of 'People's SAARC' organised a human chain and the rally in front of National Press Club in the city to put forward their demands on the eve of the SAARC Summit to be held in the Maldives on November 10-11.

The rights groups are BKF, BDPC, BNPS, BTUC, CDP, CSRL, DCI, EquityBD, IED, Kishani Shoba, LDC Watch, Incidin Bangladesh, Nobodhara, OKS, SAAPE, SANGAT, Supro and Voice.

Moderated by Mostafa Kamal Akanda of EquityBD, the rally was addressed, among others, by Rokeya Kabir of BNPS, Rezaul Karim Chowdhury from EquityBD, Monju Rani Pramanik of Supro, Fakhrul Ferdous from DCI, Subal Das of Bhumihin Samity, and Zaid Iqbal from Krishak Federation.

They described SAARC as mere a talk shop for its 'failure' to deliver for the poor people of the region. They suggested making SAFTA effective to ensure duty- and quota-free access of the products of SAARC's least developed countries to other SAARC countries.

As climate change has emerged as a threat for the region, they said the South Asian leaders should initiate an integrated and coordinated climate action plan.

They put forward a good number of demands at the rally. Those include making SAARC Food Bank operational, enhancing its stocks up to one million tonnes and taking steps to set up SAARC Seed Bank.