New Delhi: The nationwide shutdown (Bharat Bandh) called by millions of traders to protest against Centre’s decision to allow foreign direct equity into the retail market has hit normal life with major shops remaining closed and business activities put to halt.
Reports, Thursday, claimed that nearly five crore traders have taken the fight against government’s retail FDI move to streets.
According to reports, all major trade unions across the country are supporting today’s bandh forcing all medium-small commercial complexes and retail stores to keep their shutter down.
Traders in several states including West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Uttarakhand and others are holding protests in their local markets. They are also demonstrations in front of foreign stores.
Big markets like Karol Bagh, Sadar Bazar, Kamla Nagar, Chawri Bazar, Kashmere Gate, Tilak Nagar, Rohini, Krishna Nagar and Greater Kailash M Block remained closed while Sarojini Nagar and INA markets functioned as usual.
Neighbourhood shops were also open even as the one-day protest received support from political parties like BJP and Left parties.
BJP joined the traders' protest by organising marches and burnt the effigies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in at least 20 locations of the
Confederation of All India Traders' (CAIT) Delhi unit president Narender Madan said a large number of traders have kept their shops shut to participate in the all-India bandh.
However, some prominent traders associations like the Sarojini Nagar Mini Market Association and INA Market Association dissociated from the CAIT call for the bandh saying the protest was uncalled for.
In view of today’s shutdown, several foreign retail giants such as Bharti-Walmart, Tesco and Carrefour have decided to either keep their stores closed or beefed up the security of their stores.
A large number of private security guards have been deployed to vigorously check customers and vehicles entering their premises.
The government has recently triggered a political storm by allowing its decision to allow 51% foreign investment in the multi-brand retail sector, but has since faced stringent criticism as protests have swelled from opposition parties and some of its own allies.
It has prompted anti-Congress forces to join hands to train their guns, against the Congress and especially against AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi, ahead of the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
The main opposition party BJP and the Left have declared their full-hearted support to the call for today’s Bharat Bandh announced by various traders’ organisations.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari, supporting the cause of the traders, stated that Indian economy, at present, is dominated by the services sector, which accounts for 58 per cent of India’s GDP. “Foreign Direct Investment, with deep pockets, entering this segment will have an adverse impact on our domestic retail sector.”
BJP-ruled State Chief Ministers have announced that they will not follow the Centre in allowing the FDI into the multi-brand sector. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan was the first to declare that he would ensure that the retailers and farmers do not suffer due to the FDI policy of the Centre and therefore would not allow the FDI entry in the retail sector in his state.
UP Chief Minister Mayawati has alleged that FDI decision was taken to help Rahul’s friends. “Rahul Gandhi has always stayed abroad and earlier he used to get his foreign friends to stay in the houses of poor people in Uttar Pradesh, make fun of poverty and now they are getting foreign companies into India,” Mayawati stated.
The war over allowing FDI in multi-brand retail escalated with the opposition BJP squarely rejecting the government's plea for toning down its adjournment motion.
The issue also led to the adjournment of both Houses of Parliament for the seventh straight day, without transacting any business. The entire opposition has demanded rollback of the controversial decision.
The government is trying to mollify its allies and bring them onboard as far as the decision on FDI is concerned, before it makes any concessions to the Opposition which has stalled Parliament on the issue.
Meanwhile, Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma is set to brief Congress MPs on the issue today.
Despite the stalemate, Prime Minister has ruled out a roll back.
With PTI Input
First Published: Thursday, December 01, 2011, 08:54