Smt. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil
President of India
The members of the Socialist Party sat on a dharna today at Jantar Mantar against the decision of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail sector and in favour of retail traders, consumers and farmers of the country. We would like to submit this memorandum to you for your kind attention and action.
The decision to allow 51 % FDI in multi-brand retail trade was announced by the UPA government in late November 2011. The combined opposition - NDA, CPM-CPI, AIDMK, BSP, SP – and UPA's biggest partner Trinmool Congress opposed the decision in one voice. They demanded immediate revocation of the decision of the government stating it a blow to 96 % traders in the country. While there was a logjam in the parliament on this contentious issue, the trade unions/organisations of the retail sector came out on the roads in protest. The government, in a gesture for truce, suspended the decision. It was promised by the government that the decision would not be implemented without wider consultation, debate and consensus.
The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she had FDI on agenda while meeting Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal during her 3 day visit to the country in early May. Mrs. Clinton's love for Wal-Mart is not unknown. She has served on Wal-Mart board as its director for six years. Jean Noel Bironneau, the Indian head (MD) of the French retail giant Carrefour, called on Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma a few days ago. It is understood that Mr. Bironneau raised the issue of allowing FDI in retail at the earliest. There are reports, that facing strong protests on hiking fuel prices, the government may speed up reforms and implement the so far withheld decision of allowing FDI in retail sector.
These reports raise apprehensions that the government is planning a new push for FDI in retail and also in aviation. It will be catastrophic for the small traders and farmers because academic debates prove that FDI in retail will benefit only the MNCs such as Wal-Mart, Tesco, Carrefour and big Indian players in the field. It is further proved that the decision is not in tune with the spirit of India's Constitution and was made under the dictates of neo-liberal forces. The tongue-in-cheek argument by the government that allowing FDI in retail would benefit the consumers, the farmers, would increase employment and lead to fall of prices has been dismissed as baseless in various studies made by experts and scholars. The unethical character of multinational organised retail chain companies, in relation to the welfare of employees and democratic/transparent functioning, has been exposed time and again.
In view of this, we humbly request you to advise the government to scrap this anti-people decision permanently.
The Socialist Party would like to suggest that retail trade should be reserved only for the small sector. Not only foreign MNC's, but even the big Indian corporate/industrial houses should not be allowed in retail trade. Retailers, particularly vendors and road-side shopkeepers should be protected from the extortion by the local body officers and the police. A well thought-out plan should be made by the government to strengthen and modernise the retail sector.
Dr. Prem Singh