Sunday, December 2, 2012

Left Parties to intesify the struggle against FDI in retail sector

The Left parties on Saturday called upon people to join their rally in New Delhi on December 3 against the UPA government decisions on FDI in multi-brand retail, replacement of subsidy by cash transfer, rising inflation and capping the number of subsidized LPG cylinders. They have also called a two-day statewide agitation in Bihar on February 20 to press their demands.

Speaking at a state-level convention of CPI, CPM, Forward Block and RSP held at Patna CPIM general secretary Prakash Karat said the UPA-II has been anti-people all through.  Karat hoped all the political parties opposing FDI would vote against the government in parliament on December 5. He said the Left parties would also seek a vote over RBI amendments in Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) to facilitate FDI in multi-brand retail.
Ahead of the vote in Parliament on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said here on Saturday that since parties with a majority were opposed to the policy, there was no consensus among the allies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on the issue. 

Addressing supporters at the meeting, he said, “Besides the Congress and its allies, namely the Nationalist Congress Party and the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, all the others have taken a stand against FDI. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, its biggest ally, is also against FDI. So where is the consensus?” After the FDI vote, the Left parties will target the proposed amendment to the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) regulations to allow FDI in retail. “The Supreme Court has said the Reserve Bank of India should have amended the FEMA regulations to bring in FDI. We will ask for a vote on this too,” he said. 

Accusing the UPA of bowing to pressure from the U.S. and the foreign capitalists, Mr. Karat said the UPA went back on its promise of discussing with parties and governments to build a consensus on the issue and took a “one-sided” decision to allow FDI. 

“This government has been trying to bring Walmart and other supermarkets since 2004. The decision was stalled due to stiff opposition. When Pranab Mukherjee was the Finance Minister, he had assured that the decision would be suspended and a consensus would be created through consultation with other parties. But in September, the one-sided decision to allow FDI was taken. Of the 28 States whose opinion was sought, only nine backed it. What economic freedom will we have if foreign giants like Walmart, Tesco and Carrefour capture our markets?” he asked, likening the fight against FDI to the freedom struggle.Terming the policy as “antinational” and “anti-people”, Mr. Karat said the government’s claim of creating one crore jobs was “a blatant lie.” 

“In the U.S., a Walmart supermarket employs an estimated 200 to 250 people. And in India, a small shop would have around three employees. If a Walmart comes in an area, it will employ 200 people, but 1,300 shops in the vicinity will be shut, resulting in job losses for around 4,000 people. This is not just an attack on small businesses, it will impact the industry and agriculture.” 

As almost two of the four crore estimated retailers are concentrated in the 53 cities, rolling out FDI in 53 cities would affect a large number of them. The policy was not in farmer’s interest but in the interest of the US and Walmart, he said. he Left parties would mobilise people against the “damaging” policy. “We will not allow a single Walmart store to open. Our slogan will be ‘Stop Walmart’,” Mr. Karat said. 

Highlighting the pressing problems of inflation, poverty and unemployment, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan asked, “Is this (FDI) our priority? The government has not given any thought to its impact on livelihoods. The big retail giants have been looting the world in the name of retail trade. We don’t to give them space in India.” 

Both the leaders criticised the government’s decision of direct cash transfer for subsidies and entitlements and reiterated the demand for universal public distribution system. The joint convention on FDI saw the participation of the CPI (M), CPI, CPI (ML) and the All India Forward Block.

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