Dissuade entry of multinationals into retail trade, banking

Even as the government tries to devise ways and means to tackle rising prices, central trade unions on Wednesday argued for a ban on futures trading in food items so as to contain the inflationary spiral and urged the government to make the stimulus measures for industry conditional to employment creation.

As of now, futures trading is banned on specific food commodities such as rice and pulses (tur and urad).

In a joint memorandum presented to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee during their pre-budget meeting here on Wednesday, the trade unions disfavoured the entry of large corporates and multinationals into areas such as retail trade and banking.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Centre of Trade Unions (CITU) General Secretary Tapas Sen said: “All trade unions, in a single voice, have said that price rise must be contained. If you [the government] are serious [about containing] price rise, then put a complete ban on futures trading in commodities.”

Alongside, the unions also pitched for further strengthening of the public distribution system (PDS). “We have given the memorandum regarding price rise. Essential commodity prices should be contained and PDS should be developed [further],” Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh president Girish Awasthi said.

On the direct taxes front, the trade unions, as announced earlier, sought a hike in the income tax exemption ceiling from the current Rs. 1.6 lakh to Rs. 3 lakh per annum and urged the government to do away with tax on fringe benefits such as housing, medical and educational facilities.

Earlier, initiating the discussion at the meeting — the third in the series of pre-budget consultations — Mr. Mukherjee said that growth in employment opportunities was vital for ensuring an inclusive development process and sought policy suggestions from the unions to help the government move rapidly in that direction. He pointed out that one of the biggest challenges before the nation at present was to find the right balance between the need for economic growth, sustainability of resources & natural habitats and the opportunities that need to be created for bringing the more disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of people into the mainstream of the development process.

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