New Delhi: Government on Tuesday countered the opposition’s claim that its decision to allow FDI in the multi-brand retail was not in the best interest of the nation by saying that it was unnecessary politicizing the issue.
Defending the government, Union IT Minister Kapil Sibal said, “BJP’s claim on FDI is vastly exaggerated. We are not enforcing the FDI decision. It is only for the willing states to implement the FDI decision. Ultimate choice rests with the states.”
Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Sibal made a direct attack on the main opposition BJP by saying, “BJP’s 2004 poll manifesto promised FDI in the multi-brand retail so why it is opposing it today.”
The minister continued by saying the main opposition party was “unnecessarily politicizing” the issue.
Supporting the government`s decision to allow foreign investment in multi-brand retail, the Communications and IT Minister asked in the Lok Sabha whether the issue needed to be debated in Parliament at all.
"I wonder, why this debate," Sibal said.
The Minister further said, “A new kind of federal structure was being suggested in the country by the opposition, which was ignoring the fact that the policy allowed the states whether or not to permit an FDI project in retail.”
"But how can you stop a chief minister from bringing in FDI in retail if he so wants," he asked.
“As per the policy, only 18 cities in India can have such stores,” the minister said.
He also countered BJP leader Sushma Swaraj’s claim that big retail giants will ruin small traders in India by saying, “Walmart took 16 years in China to turn profitable.
Earlier, opening the big debate on the UPA government’s decision to allow the FDI in the multi-brand retail, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday slammed the Centre for taking the decision unilaterally.
“Government went back on its promise to bring consensus on the FDI issue. The government had in the last session promised us that the FDI decision will remain suspended till a consensus is reached on the same,” the BJP leader said.
Attempting to corner the government in Lok Sabha, Swaraj said, “Despite assurances from President Pranab Mukherjee, the then Finance Minister, the government did not even attempt to bring consensus on FDI in retail. No political party was contacted before taking a decision."
Referring to the term ‘predatory pricing’, the BJP leader said, “FDI in multi-brand retail will encourage monopolistic tendencies.” Driving her point home, Swaraj said, ‘Multinational retail chains force farmers to sell their produce below cost of production.”
“Big retailers pay farmers less. They pay farmers less, employees less, but keep high profits. All over the world, large supermarkets do this," Sushma said. She also said that even McDonalds does not take potatoes from Indian farmers.
"Government should ask McDonalds to tell from where it source potatoes for its fries from. McDonalds never buys potatoes from local Indian farmers, they say the size of potatoes is very small here," Sushma Swaraj said.
Amid continuous disruption from the ruling side, Swaraj said that the consumer will lose if there is FDI in retail as the market will shrink to a few players.
“Competition is in the interest of consumers, monopoly is not," Swaraj argued.
Swaraj also ridiculed the government’s claim that the FDI decision will open job opportunities by saying, “The government got its facts wrong. Government claims FDI will give more jobs, will give direct employment to 40 lakh people. According to the Walmart data we have, a Walmart store has a maximum of 214 employees per store. The data given by the government is questionable."
She maintained that Walmart has been a flop show in United States. If we go by the government data then Walmart needs 36,000 stores to create 40 lakh jobs.”
If the FDI decision is implemented in India, then Indian market will be flooded with Chinese products, she argued, claiming, “China will see growth in manufacturing and employment.”
There was uproar in the Lok Sabha after Swaraj spoke about sugarcane farmers during the FDI debate. Swaraj said, "Government talks of reducing the role of middlemen. In the sugar industry, there are no middlemen involved. Sugarcane farmers are still suffering, no one is paying them, slips are given to them, We all know the politics of sugarcane."
Ahead of the big debate on the Centre’s decision to allow the FDI in the multi-brand retail, the main opposition BJP and the Left demanded a separate debate and voting on FDI in retail and amendments to notification issued under FEMA.
However, the demand was rejected by the Speaker.