The chain of stores will drive out hawkers and small traders
NEW DELHI: The visit of senior Wal-Mart officials to the country coincided with protests in several cities, including the national capital, against the U.S. retail giant's bid for a partnership with the Bharti Group. Protests were also staged in Mumbai and Bangalore, according to campaign organiser of India FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] Watch Dharmendra Kumar.
Protesters belonging to the Left parties and several mass organisations were taken into preventive custody as they tried to march to the Commerce Ministry here seeking to block any move to change FDI rules.
According to the current policy, foreign investment is banned in lottery and gambling, atomic energy (except mineral exploration) and retail (except single product retail). However, Bharti has announced an investment of $2.5 billions in the multi-product retail sector with Wal-Mart as a key partner.
The protesters said that not only would the chain of stores backed by foreign funds drive out hawkers and small traders, as was the case in Mexico and Japan, Wal-Mart's credentials for following ethical labour practices were also suspect.
The Government should first examine the impact of corporate retail chains and place safeguards to protect communities, small entrepreneurs and guarantee fair wages and working conditions. It should also ensure that a significant percentage of sourcing should be from India.
The protest was led by six mass organisations of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and included activists of the All-India Forward Bloc, Confederation of All-India Traders, National Hawkers Federation, Narmada Bachao Andolan, National Alliance of Street Vendors of India and National Hawkers' Federation.