New Delhi: The Congress party is facing stern opposition over its move to allow FDI in multi-brand retail. To counter the sentiments, the Congress party launched a rally on Sunday in the national capital in which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were the star speakers.

Since the time the  government made its mind to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, various multi-brand retail companies from all across the globe are planning to enter into the Indian market which is one of the biggest market in the world. Apart from retail giants like Walmart and IKEA, Chinese and German retail companies have also shown eagerness to enter India.

In the past few months since the issue first cropped up, there have been lots of activities witnessed in the political corridor. The verbal dual between the ruling government and the opposition has continued for a long time now. The issue is something which is very much connected to the masses and people perceive it as a threat to their employment.   

As well, India's mistrust of foreign merchants dates back to Britain's East India Company, which used trade to colonize the subcontinent. After independence in 1947 and until a first wave of reforms in 1991, the economy remained largely closed and socialist.

Most opposition to the FDI policy now comes from small traders and middlemen who traditionally support the BJP. Congress hopes to win over farmers and middle class consumers, who are angry at inflation and rampant corruption in the party.

 According to Sonia Gandhi, “FDI in retail will not only benefit farmers but also unemployed youth and the common man," the head of the ruling Congress party told a capacity crowd of mainly rural supporters in New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan ground, which holds about 50,000 people.

FDI TO HELP COMMON MAN

Accusing the opposition of spreading misinformation regarding policy initiatives taken by UPA, a combative Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday said reform measures, including FDI in retail, will benefit the common man and create more jobs.

"If we want to bring some changes in our policies for the benefit of the country, we will definitely do so," he said.

Defending the opening up of multi-brand retail to foreign investment, he said suggestions that this will harm farmers were "wrong". The "difference" between Congress and those opposing them was that his party and the government wanted to create a change in the society, he said.

"We have to take difficult decisions to achieve this... Those opposing us will be proved wrong. Eight crore people have benefited from the MNREGA. Twelve crore children have benefited from mid-day meal programme. Prosperity should reach the common man.

"We need economic reforms to create more jobs... The people are being misled about recent government decisions... We have done a lot of work in the last eight years," Singh said.

However, the first test for the new strategy is the election in Himachal Pradesh where the Congress is trying to oust the ruling BJP in a tight race. Sonia Gandhi last week told farmers in the state that the demand created by supermarkets would help end price volatility.

INDUSTRY BULLISH ON FDI IN RETAIL

According to the industry, FDI in retail will benefit both consumers and farmers, and would help in creating more employment opportunities in the country.

"FDI in retail will benefit consumers as well as farm community. We would be able to see large investments coming in which in turn lead to large number of jobs in retail sector," CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said.
      
FICCI President R V Kanoria said, "FDI in retail would create agricultural linkages and help in reducing agricultural wastage."

ASSOCHAM said that entry of global chains into the retail sector will help the farmers without compromise in interest of the neighbourhood kirana store.
     
"The concerns over the displacement of jobs in the informal kirana sector are misplaced because the small trade will integrate with modern supply chain once the FDI in retail materialise," ASSOCHAM President R N Dhoot said.

However, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) called for an open debate on the matter.
     
"We would definitely like to have open dialogue on this issue and let the country decide whether FDI in retail is in interest of the country or it would prove much detrimental to the interest of the country," CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said.
     
He said that CAIT has made enough research on the issue and is convinced with documents available with it that FDI in retail will be detrimental to the interest of not only the traders but farmers, hawkers and small industry also.

(JPN/Agencies)

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