Refutes allegation that some UPA allies had not been consulted

The Congress, heading the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre, has taken the 72-hour deadline set by the Trinamool Congress to withdraw the decision to allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail and roll back the hike in diesel prices “seriously.” It was making efforts to pacify TMC leader Mamata Banerjee, according to Union Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises and Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi.

Talking to journalists here on Saturday, the Minister said as the Trinamool was one of the UPA partners, efforts would be made to persuade Ms. Banerjee against opposing the decision and party leaders would talk to her, he added.

Refuting the allegation that some of the UPA allies had not been consulted on allowing FDI in multi-brand retail, he said the decision was taken by the Cabinet, where there were representatives from all coalition parties. “However, every party has the right to express its views,” he said.

Mr. Ravi stressed the need to increase FDI inflow to spur economic growth and said it would not snatch away the market of small retailers, as only 18 big cities with a population of over one million would be allowed to have multi-national managed malls. “It is up to the States to allow FDI in multi-brand retail. The multinational malls have to procure products only within the country,” he said.

Mr. Ravi noted that malls were being patronised by the middle class, who would be get quality products at competitive rates with the entry of foreign players in multi-brand retail.

Nevertheless, he admitted that the proposal seeking relaxation in 30 per cent sourcing clause for single brand foreign retailers had not been accepted by him and generally that regulation had not been diluted at all.

He said exemption had been provided for some items which were not available such as iPad and certain branded watches, as the government did not want to put road blocks to investment flow.

On increase in diesel price, the Minister said the subsidy on petroleum products was running to Rs.1,30,000 crore, which needed to be cut, if the government wanted to sustain social welfare programme such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).

The government was also not happy with the decision but it had been taken to reduce the huge oil subsidies and in the wake of pressure on GDP growth and the slowing down of the economy.

Reacting to the allegation of corruption in the allocation of coal blocks, Mr. Ravi said the allotment to those firms which were not actual users would be withdrawn and those who misled the Screening Committee, while applying for coal blocks would be dealt with legally.

Terming the loss estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as “notional,” he said the blocks were allotted only to the users and never meant to be commercially exploited.

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