FDI in retail trade has drawn flak among major political parties as they feel it would destroy domestic trade

“Free trade is destructive in nature; it antagonises the old nationalities existing between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and hastens social revolution” - Karl Marx

The recent diesel price rise, cap on consumption of domestic LPG (14.2 Kg) cylinders per annum to six cylinders for one household and 51 per cent of FDI in retail trade are being seen largely as an economic onslaught on the common masses and the middle classes.

The first two among the above said decisions were taken by the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs at a meeting last Thursday and the decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, 49 per cent in aviation, power and broadcasting sectors and the disinvestment of major PSUs were taken on Friday.

The decisions have drawn flak among major political parties and trade unions across the country and announcements were made calling for a bandh on September, 20. In Madurai already protests were organised by Communist Party of India (Marxist) and leaders like D. Pandian (CPI) and Thol. Thirumavalavan (VCK) have demanded 100 per cent rollback.

Stating that the increase in diesel price and other reforms an economic war against common man, CPI (M)’s Madurai South MLA, R. Annadurai said that all the major oil companies have recorded major profit during last year and the current year and demanded withdrawal of the reforms and rollback of diesel price rise on behalf of his party.

At a time when the Union Government could provide Rs. 4 lakh crore as tax subsidy to corporate sector why can’t they give subsidised LPG cylinders for domestic consumption and cap of 6 LPGs per family in a year is highly condemnable, he added.

“Statistics say that 171 cylinders were being used by President of India during six months and 141 cylinders were used by P. Chidambaram when he was the Union Home Minister, if they could consume such huge numbers why are they bringing in such restrictions and putting common people’s lives into misery,” questioned the CPI (M) MLA.

Commenting on the 51 per cent in FDI retail trade, he said that close to 5 crore people are directly involved and many more are indirectly involved in the retail trade which is the largest livelihood source after agriculture and the entry of multinational retailers like Walmart, Tesco and Carrefour would destroy domestic trade. Almost in twelve countries including Thailand, the entry of these MNCs saw the destruction of domestic retail trade, he said.

C. Sathiah, president, Lorry Owners Association (LOA), Madurai said that this five rupee hike in diesel price along with the recent price rise has increased our transport costs by 14 per cent, moreover we have got two toll plazas at Kappalur near Madurai and Aruppukottai and all these things have affected us economically.

“Everyday, 1800 lorries enter Madurai city and 1500 leave the city carrying mostly food items and agricultural produce, a 10 tonne lorry’s transport cost was Rs. 7,500 from Madurai to Chennai and now we because of the hike we have gone for a 15 per cent increase.” This 15 per cent increase could result in the increase of essential daily usage products.

The LOA strongly opposes the entry of MNCs in retail trade as they will directly affect us as all these MNCs will be having their own fleet of lorries to transport goods and we will be shunted out, said Mr. Sathiah.

Share autos despite their role in multiplying traffic woes on the roads of Madurai are being largely used by the working classes as their mode of transport and an alternative to buses. Fortunately, a few share autos have not increased their rates as they were mostly dependent on passengers waiting for buses.

For example, Paul Pandi, who rides from Nelpettai to Silaiman charges Rs.10, the buses plying the same distance charge rates from Rs. 9 to Rs. 6 depending on the quality of the service, even after the hike the share autos have not increased the rates from Rs.10 as it would result in passengers avoiding them. However, other share autos have gone for a marginal increase from Rs. 2 to Rs. 5.

Likewise a few of the middleclass and upper middleclass households said that the cap on domestic LPGs is harsh at a time when there is hardly any electricity, so the usage of electric cookers or microwave has become almost impossible so we have to use LPGs more. At least ten cylinders are consumed by a family of five in a year and this cap on LPG use will result in gas companies demanding unreasonable prices for additional cylinders opined homemakers in a few households.

What they say…

R. Annadurai, MLA, CPI(M): Why can’t the government give subsidised LPG cylinders for domestic consumption.

C. Sathiah, president, Lorry Owners Association: Hike in diesel price has increased our transport cost by 14 per cent.

Paul Pandi, Share Auto Driver: We can’t increase rate as then passengers would start avoiding us.

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