Notification today; GoM will work out riders

Allies of the ruling United Progressive Alliance have again forced the Manmohan Singh government to take a step back, this time over the ban on cotton exports.

The government has now announced that a new notification revoking the ban imposed on March 5 will be issued on Monday, in what is considered a victory for Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who stoutly opposed the decision, along with the States of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Political secretary to the Congress president Ahmed Patel also moved the Commerce, Industry and Textile Minister Anand Sharma and sought its revocation.

Earlier, the government put on hold its move to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail under pressure from the allies as well as the Opposition.

Sources in the government indicated that the ban revocation would come with some riders, and the guidelines accompanying the revocation were likely to be announced after a meeting of the Group of Ministers scheduled for March 23.

Interestingly, the ban had been suggested not by the Textile Ministry but by a Committee of Secretaries. This indicated that the Textile and Agriculture Ministries were not taken on board. In a statement issued on Sunday, Mr. Anand Sharma said: “Keeping in view the facts and the interests of farmers, industry and trade, a balanced view has been considered by the Group of Ministers to roll back the ban. A formal order to lift the ban will be issued on Monday.”

Insiders in the government said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is heading the GoM, had asked the Commerce Ministry to prepare a new notification after the meeting of the GoM on March 9. The Ministry swung into action and prepared a notification on Saturday and got it off for the approval of the Finance Minister and the Law Ministry.

After it was finalised on Sunday, the government decided to issue the notification. But the revocation would come with some riders to be decided at the March 23 meeting of the GoM.