An all-India bandh called by traders to protest against foreign direct investment in retail on Thursday evoked partial to complete response but neighbourhood shops by and large remained open.
Shopkeepers in many cities took out marches demanding a rollback of the government move even as traders' bodies said the decision will create an uneven playing field in the country which will tilt towards multi-national companies and prove to be a "nightmare" for traders and consumers.
Confederation of All India Traders' (CAIT) Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal claimed traders across the country were participating in the day-long strike. However, reports reaching in New Delhi said the response to it was partial in Delhi, Bihar and Assam.
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"Around five crore traders belonging to 10,000 traders' bodies across the country are participating in the bandh.
Traders took out marches in commercial markets across the country," Khandelwal said.
Big markets like Karol Bagh, Sadar Bazar, Kamla Nagar, Chawri Bazar, Kashmere Gate, Tilak Nagar, Rohini, Krishna Nagar and Greater Kailash M Block in Delhi remained closed while Sarojini Nagar and INA markets functioned as usual.
Neighbourhood shops were also open even as the protest received support from political parties like BJP and the Left.
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BJP also joined the strike in Delhi by organising marches and burnt effigies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in at least 20 locations of the city.
Small and medium traders across Maharashtra including Mumbai downed their shutters. Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM), the apex body of 750 trade, transport and small-scale associations, claimed that about 35 lakh traders in the state had joined the strike.
Most shops and establishments in West Bengal downed their shutters including in the wholesale market in Posta area of Burrabazar, the largest in the state.
Shops and business establishments in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Orissa by and large remained shut.
Many private schools remained closed in Patna as a precautionary measure. While ruling NDA in Bihar has extended support to the strike, Congress and LJP have opposed it. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said he would not allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-breand retail.
"We have received good response for the bandh in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai as traders of the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) have joined call to support the one-day bandh. Major markets of grain, fruits and vegetables, onion and potato and 'kirana' have observed bandh today," FAM President Mohan Gurnani said.
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"Traders from all over the country, including Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Kerala and other states, are strongly opposing FDI in retail. This is a question of our existence and, hence, there are no divisions," he claimed.
Maintaining that there was no need for foreign investment in the sector, Khandelwal said here, "The Government should withdraw the permission of FDI in retail".
He said Indian retail sector was being run successfully by the indigenous capital at the rate of 15 per cent and contributing 10 per cent of GDP. "So no FDI was required".
"The foreign retailers can open in big cities, but they will source from mandis across rural India and small town.
With their money and power over time, they can corner the supply of produce and dominate the outsources side," he said.
Good response to Bandh in Mumbai
Over one lakh wholesalers, retailers and small traders across Mumbai joined the all-India strike of the trading community - called by various associations and unions - to oppose foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail.
A majority of the retailers, wholesalers and other shops and establishments - barring restaurants and pharmacies - remained shut in Mumbai and its suburbs, said Viren Shah, president, Federation of Retail Traders' Welfare Association.
He said jewellers, cloth merchants and oil depots, besides other professionals participated in the strike on Thursday, and most commercial hubs in the city and suburbs wore a deserted look since morning.
Elsewhere in Maharashtra, retailers did not open their shops and commercial establishments in places like Thane, Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik, Nagpur and other major cities and towns.
The shutdown call has been supported by all opposition parties at the state and central levels.
After Thursday's daylong token agitation, the trading community plans to intensify the agitation in others forms in the coming few weeks.
Shutdown hits life in Himachal
Shops and commercial establishments were closed in Himachal Pradesh's major towns as workers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) as well as traders protested the decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail.
However, there was no report of traffic being held up due to the strike. There was also no report of violence anywhere, an official at the police headquarters said.
Over 6,000 shopkeepers in Shimla kept their shops closed. He, however, said shops dealing with daily necessary items like medicines and eatables would be exempted from the shutdown.
Bangalore traders shut shop
Hundreds of shops across Bangalore, in upscale areas as well as middle and low-income areas were shut protesting foreign direct investment in the retail business.
Traders in upscale shopping areas of M.G. Road, Brigade Road, Commercial Street in city centre, Malleshwaram in north Bangalore, Jayanagar in south, and whole-sale markets in Akkipet and Chikpet in central business district did not open their shops.
The traders gathered at the premises of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry in city centre and held a rally demanding central government rollback its decision to allow FDI in retail.
With inputs from IANS