Ahead of the vote in Parliament on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said here on Saturday that since parties with a majority were opposed to the policy, there was no consensus among the allies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on the issue.
Asked about the dithering position of the Samajwadi Party, which lends outside support to the UPA, Mr. Karat said, “Let’s wait for the vote.”
“The debate and the vote will pressurise the UPA government. We will know the outcome after the vote. Parties having a majority have opposed FDI. Those lending support to the government are also against it,” Mr. Karat told journalists on the sidelines of a convention of Left parties here.
Addressing supporters at the meeting, he said, “Besides the Congress and its allies, namely the Nationalist Congress Party and the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, all the others have taken a stand against FDI. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, its biggest ally, is also against FDI. So where is the consensus?”
After the FDI vote, the Left parties will target the proposed amendment to the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) regulations to allow FDI in retail. “The Supreme Court has said the Reserve Bank of India should have amended the FEMA regulations to bring in FDI. We will ask for a vote on this too,” he said.
Accusing the UPA of bowing to pressure from the U.S. and the foreign capitalists, Mr. Karat said the UPA went back on its promise of discussing with parties and governments to build a consensus on the issue and took a “one-sided” decision to allow FDI.
“This government has been trying to bring Walmart and other supermarkets since 2004. The decision was stalled due to stiff opposition. When Pranab Mukherjee was the Finance Minister, he had assured that the decision would be suspended and a consensus would be created through consultation with other parties. But in September, the one-sided decision to allow FDI was taken. Of the 28 States whose opinion was sought, only nine backed it. What economic freedom will we have if foreign giants like Walmart, Tesco and Carrefour capture our markets?” he asked, likening the fight against FDI to the freedom struggle.
Terming the policy as “antinational” and “anti-people”, Mr. Karat said the government’s claim of creating one crore jobs was “a blatant lie.”
“In the U.S., a Walmart supermarket employs an estimated 200 to 250 people. And in India, a small shop would have around three employees. If a Walmart comes in an area, it will employ 200 people, but 1,300 shops in the vicinity will be shut, resulting in job losses for around 4,000 people. This is not just an attack on small businesses, it will impact the industry and agriculture.”
As almost two of the four crore estimated retailers are concentrated in the 53 cities, rolling out FDI in 53 cities would affect a large number of them. The policy was not in farmer’s interest but in the interest of the US and Walmart, he said.
The Left parties would mobilise people against the “damaging” policy. “We will not allow a single Walmart store to open. Our slogan will be ‘Stop Walmart’,” Mr. Karat said.
Highlighting the pressing problems of inflation, poverty and unemployment, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan asked, “Is this (FDI) our priority? The government has not given any thought to its impact on livelihoods. The big retail giants have been looting the world in the name of retail trade. We don’t to give them space in India.”
Both the leaders criticised the government’s decision of direct cash transfer for subsidies and entitlements and reiterated the demand for universal public distribution system. The joint convention on FDI saw the participation of the CPI (M), CPI, CPI (ML) and the All India Forward Block.