The Central government’s decision to allow global giants such as Wal-Mart into the country’s $450-billion retail market has been met with fierce opposition from parties who say it will destroy the livelihoods of millions of small traders. Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi tells Gyan Verma foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail will cause job losses and the state doesn’t want it. Edited excerpts:
What is your position on FDI in retail? Have you spoken to chief ministers of other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled state governments?
The BJP, Janata Dal (United) and the Bihar government have decided FDI will not be allowed in Bihar. We will not allow any multinational company to open shops or malls in Patna, as it is the only place where the population is more than one million. We strongly believe FDI in retail will hamper farmers and small retailers. It would only create large scale job loss, which we don’t want. The Union government has already said it is for the state governments to decide if they want to implement the decision and we have decided against it.
I have not spoken to any chief minister of BJP-ruled states. It’s for the party’s central leadership to do it. As far as the Bihar government is concerned, we don’t want FDI in retail in our state.
We had opposed the opening up of special economic zones (SEZ) and it has failed. So, I think we had taken a wise decision by opposing SEZ. Similarly, we believe FDI in retail will also meet the same fate.
The state government is in the process of preparing a Lokayukta Act. How is it going? Will the chief minister come under the purview of the Lokayukta?
Yes, the legislative committee is working on the draft report and we will soon give our report. The chief minister will come under the ambit of the Lokayukta. We had assured everyone Bihar would have a strong Lokayukta Act and we will keep our assurance. The report would be completed and sent to the government soon.
The government was criticised by members of India Against Corruption. Why do you think such criticisms were levelled?
I don’t know why they criticised the state government. It’s possible they had not read the report completely. We had assured for a strong Lokayukta and we will do so. We had discussed the Lokayukta issue with other parties, as well during consultations.
You talked about the chief minister coming under the ambit of the Lokayukta. But what about giving other necessary powers to the anti-graft authority? Will it have a separate investigation wing?
The Lokayukta will have separate investigation and prosecution wings that will investigate corruption cases. Till the time recruitment for both wings is not completed, the state government will provide the necessary manpower. We have not calculated the total strength that would be required because the Lokayukta is still at the legislation stage.
Bihar is at loggerheads with the Centre on the opening of a university. What is the issue?
The Union government wants the university around Patna, the state capital, whereas we want it in Motihari. The Central government’s argument is if the university is near Patna, faculty members would find it easier to commute. But we believe distance is no longer a problem in Bihar because very soon, a four-lane highway would start up to Motihari and it would take two hours to travel between Patna and Motihari.
The public distribution system (PDS) in Bihar needs a revival? What are the steps being taken by the state government?
The government is working on a plan in which we will have direct cash transfer of the subsidy part and it will check leakages. There is 40 per cent leakage at all India level and we want to check this in Bihar.