Says it has taken dual stand in FDI issue

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat flayed the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for its volte face in the issue of allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail during the debate in Parliament.

Addressing a public meeting against FDI in retail here on Tuesday in which representatives of traders’ associations also took part, Ms. Karat said that the ‘magic wand’ of the Congress, which led the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, had worked in making the political parties that opposed FDI in retail during the debate to vote in favour of the government. “Fourteen out of the 18 political parties, including the DMK, opposed FDI in retail saying that it will be a disaster to the (domestic) retail traders during the debate. But, when it came to voting, they supported the government. We do not know what the magic wand is. Some say it is the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and some say it’s the Walmart,” she said.

She pointed out that Walmart had announced that it had spent Rs. 125 crore to lobby for opening up the Indian market to global giants. “The DMK has set a new record in taking dual stand in the issue. Its MP T.K.S. Elangovan made point after point opposing the FDI in retail. But, at the end of his long speech, he said: We don’t like your policy, but you (the Congress) being our brother, we will support you (your wrong policy)” Ms. Brinda said.

Taking a dig at the in-fighting among the brothers M.K. Alagiri and M.K. Stalin in the party affairs, she said, “While the brothers were fighting for the chair (leadership in the party) in the State, the DMK fought to save the chair (its ministerial berths in the Centre),” she said.

Ms. Karat, however, was appreciative of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and its leader Jayalalithaa for having opposed FDI in retail till the end of voting in Parliament.

The struggle against FDI in retail has not stopped with the voting in Parliament but will continue in all the 53 cities across the country where the Centre has allowed big global retailers to set up shop, Ms. Karat, said.

She assured the trade representatives that the Left parties would not allow the UPA government to sell the interests of the people in the name of economic reforms. “We will not allow global giants to bulldoze Indian retailers,” she said.

The country had witnessed suicide of two lakh farmers because of the wrong economic policies of the Centre. Those families turned to retail trading to save themselves after having realised that agriculture would not be a profitable venture. “But the government is paving way for small traders also to commit suicide (by allowing FDI in retail),” Ms. Karat said.

The government that had failed to generate employment to the youth and give farmers a commensurate price for their agricultural produce was claiming that the likes of Walmart would solve these two grave issues. She refuted the claims of the government that four crore jobs would be created by the giants through FDI in retail. Instead, every job created by the big global retailer would snatch 17 existing jobs, and every shop set up by them would throw hundreds of retail shops out of business.

The experience of even the European Union with the big global retailers had been that the farmers were forced to sell their produce to them at a rock bottom price through unrealistic specifications. “While the sales at those giant retailers have come down in the last three years, their profits have grown,” she said.

“The Centre that has failed to check the increasing price of essential commodities wants to hand over its market to the global retail players to bring down the prices,” she said.