For the second day on Wednesday, the Opposition parties criticised the government in the Lok Sabha for paving the way for the entry of retail giants by allowing up to 51 per cent Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail, despite the strong opposition from the people.

The government compromised the country’s interest through its decision, they said, taking part in the debate on the motion for withdrawal of the decision.

BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said the people would not tolerate the decision. The BJP favoured retail democracy and not retail dictatorship. Walmart had indulged in corrupt practices in several countries, he said, asking the government to take care of the interest of farmers instead of promoting such retail giants.

It was a false propaganda that FDI in retail would increase competition. “If you want to sacrifice your head for the sake of FDI in retail, please do, but do not sacrifice the interests of the country for it,” Dr. Joshi said.

The former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda of the JD(S), said the agricultural sector, which had already suffered because of the economic reforms and liberalisation introduced in the 1990s, would be affected further by the entry of foreign players in multi-brand retail. “I have my own apprehensions about the move.”

Foreign companies invested in India because the market here was so attractive. “They have not come here for charity. They want to extract as much benefit and profit as possible.”

Rude shock: AIADMK

M. Thambi Durai of the AIADMK said the decision was a rude shock to retail vendors. He wondered what made the Congress change its stand as it had opposed such a move during the NDA regime in 2002.

Deepender Singh Hooda of the Congress sought to embarrass the BJP, saying the Purti Group, a company run by party president Nitin Gadkari, was into multi-brand retail in a big way. He wanted to know why the BJP was now opposing the decision.

Mr. Hooda recalled that it was the BJP government that allowed FDI in the telecom, tobacco, steel, alcohol and pharmaceutical sectors. “Many multi-brand stores were opened during the NDA rule, and no BJP leader opposed them. It seems the BJP is only against the Congress and the UPA.”

Sharad Yadav of the JD(U) hit out at Union Minister Kapil Sibal for his statement that allowing FDI in retail would help the country check inflation. Mr. Sibal had said the decline in GDP, industrial production or exports would be checked only through FDI, as if this was the only medicine for all ills and only way forward.

Successive governments had given slogans like Garibi Hatao, India Shining or Aam Aadmi. “Not one of them favoured farmers or the working class. Even our freedom did not provide much succour to the downtrodden,” he said.

Praful Patel of the NCP said that while the BJP was opposing FDI in multi-brand retail, the NDA government furthered the liberalisation policy initiated by the Congress regime in the 1990s. Claims that FDI would have drastic consequences were unfounded, he said, urging the Opposition not to create a sense of fear among people.

Gurudas Dasgupta of the CPI said there was pressure from multinationals, and the Prime Minister was even ready to sacrifice the government to implement the proposal. Allowing FDI in retail would result in a scenario of giants (MNCs) versus pygmies (domestic retailers), and there could be no growth.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the SAD said that allowing FDI in multi-brand retail was nothing short of bartering away the country’s interests, and that the decision would benefit only a few foreign companies. She wanted to know whether there was any safeguard for farmers. FDI in retail would give rise to a new breed of middlemen in the garb of quality-control inspectors.

Anant Geete of the Shiv Sena said the government, by allowing FDI, was inviting East India Company. “We will not allow any foreign company to step on Indian soil through the Gateway of India.”

Nama Nageshwar Rao of the TDP accused the government of favouring foreign companies and ignoring Indian interests. At the same time, he said while there had been protests against the FDI decision, none came up with a suggestion to help farmers.

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