FDI decision was not taken overnight: Anand Sharma

Responding to the allegations made by the Opposition, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said that the decision on FDI was not taken overnight.

Updated: Dec 05, 2012, 18:17 PM IST

New Delhi: Responding to the allegations made by the Opposition during the debate on FDI in retail, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Wednesday said that the decision was not taken overnight.

It has been a topic of discussion in the country for years, said Sharma.

Speaking of farmers’ plight, Sharma said a lot of produce is wasted in our country because of lack of infrastructure.

“As an agrarian economy, we have to make sure we have minimum wastage,” the minister noted, adding the FDI will ensure adequate storage facilities and reduce wastage.

Defending the FDI decision and thanking the NDA, Sharma said people from the US and the UK are munching products of Haldiram’s and Bikanerwala.

Haldiram’s now has 38 stores worldwide, including three in London, while Bikarnerwala is a Rs 1,000 crore company that has 85 stores across the world, noted Sharma, underlining that competition from foreign firms helped Indian companies to flourish abroad.

He further said that McDonald’s started making aloo tikki after coming to India.

He also rubbished the Opposition`s charge that the government had gone back on its promise of reaching out to all stakeholders on the issue of allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.

Firmly and categorically stating that the Opposition charge was far from the truth, Sharma, who was participating in a debate under Rule 184 of the Rules of Business (which entails voting) in the Lok Sabha, said: "I acknowledge that if the government went back on the assurance on FDI in retail made in Parliament, that`s a serious charge. However, the charge is far from the truth."

Reiterating that the UPA II Government remains committed to arriving at a consensus and will always encourage consultation on FDI, Sharma said: "Twelve farmer unions were consulted about allowing FDI in retail sector. BJP asked us why the government changed its stand. Our question is, why did they change their stand."

He further said he had personally seen to it that letters from the Centre had gone out to all Chief Ministers of state governments on the issue, and added that he had even interacted with state leaders at regular intervals to get a feedback and view on the issue. He said that 11 of the 21 states had welcomed the move to allow FDI in retail, while seven states had asked for more details before deciding on the matter.

Sharma said that he met Parkash Singh Badal, Naveen Patnaik and Mamata Banerjee personally to discuss FDI. He also had a long chat with Nitish Kumar as well. BJP states Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and Akali ruled Punjab never opposed FDI in writing, he said.

“As some states had some reservations against FDI, we decided to leave it on states to implement or not to implement it,” Sharma said, noting that everyone has the right to support or oppose in a federal structure.