After causing hurt, FDI in retail to damage NDA's hopes


FDI in retail
Chandigarh, Sept 26: Even when the UPA is frazzled with its bold decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, it seems the NDA too is having trouble due to the very same reason after one of its oldest ally, the Akali Dal, has expressed their support on FDI in retail. It has been reported that Punjab's Deputy Chief Minister and senior Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Badal is supporting the move provided the Centre addresses the concerns of the farmers and the small traders.

Badal has been quoted as saying to a popular newspaper, "Our opposition is to the way the reform has been forced upon the country by the UPA. If the Centre had not acted as a dictator, we may have welcomed FDI in retail." The same could stub out the fire power in which the NDA was opposing the FDI in retail.

Badal had earlier expressed his stand on the issue and had written to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma last year highlighting his keenness on the same. He stated, "I did write to the Centre welcoming FDI. But the Government of India should have taken all stakeholders into confidence. The Prime Minister cannot announce a reform just because Wal-Mart wants it. The decision affects livelihoods of lakhs of small traders who fear they will be wiped out. It is a democratic country and apprehensions of farmers and traders should have been addressed. They should have been provided a cushion. This is not the way to usher in reforms."

He also added, "At the moment we are opposed to it. But if the Centre agrees to address the fears of stakeholders and provide a sense of security to them, then maybe we will change our stand." The clear shift of stand from the NDA is a sure cause of worry for the coalition.

In Sukhbir's letter to Sharma, he had mentioned, "We strongly believe that opening FDI in multi-brand retail will bring in the expertise, experience and resources of foreign retailers. A major beneficiary of back-end investments would be farmers... Investments in supply chain infrastructure and stores would also generate hundreds of thousands of employment opportunities for rural and urban youth. An efficient supply chain will also help decrease inflation."

Echoing Badal's views, Punjab Mandi Board president Ajmer Singh Lakhowal also backed FDI in retail and said, "It will be good for the state, particularly the farmers. Punjab should not miss the opportunity as we lack post-harvest facilities and a food processing industry. Nearly, 35 per cent of what we produce goes waste. If farmers can get better prices and consumers cheaper food, why should an agrarian state like Punjab not avail the opportunity?"

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