Various traders’ associations held protests on Tuesday through the country against the proposed opening of India’s retail sector to foreign investment, threatening to campaign against the Congress-led UPA government ahead of the Assembly elections in five states next year.
“Our national core will assess the situation and will continue the protests, even if that means campaigning against the government”, said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT). They’re seeking a meeting with Commerce Minister Anand Sharma to discuss the matter.
His ministry is finalising a note on allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail for the Union Cabinet. The traders protesting on Tuesday called it a disregard for parliamentary procedure.
“On June 8, 2009, when the parliamentary standing committee headed by Murli Manohar Joshi recommended a blanket ban on multinational corporations and big corporate houses into retail trade, that report was not put to discussion,” argued Khandelwal.
“Conversely, in the case of bringing the Lokpal Bill, the government says it first wants proper discussion in Parliament and the standing committee.” Opposition parties have asked for discussion on FDI in multi-brand retail during Parliament’s current session. According to CAIT, allowing FDI in multibrand retail will see predatory pricing by foreign brands and a fading out of traditional kirana stores, as the foreign majors would have the margins to sell at a loss initially.
“After wiping out the local retailers, they will sell at a higher price,” said a trader.
CAIT said the existing retail structure could be upgraded with technology and innovation.
“We are ready for a positive change. We can become organised without bringing in foreign brands,” Khandelwal said.
Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal, another traders’ association, is planning countrywide processions next week against the proposed move.
In July, a committee of Union government secretaries recommended allowing up to 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, but with several riders, including mandatory sourcing from the small-scale sector.
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Jaitley, however, cautioned things may go from bad to worse if the country gave a fractured mandate in the ensuing general elections