The Congress on Saturday highlighted the plight of retail traders during lockdown, alleging the government is doing "injustice" to them by allowing only e-commerce companies to sell non-essential items. Congress senior spokesperson Ajay Maken demanded a level-playing field for retailers and asked the Home Ministry to issue guidelines for online sales.
"While their shops are locked down for last one months, their main competitors are open and have been allowed to sell non-essential items online. This is injustice to retailers and the government should not allow this," he said. Maken said traders have locked down their shops for the past one month and before that, suffered due to demonetisation, e-commerce competition and the GST, which have broken their backbone.
These retailers still will have to pay salaries, rent, fixed electricity charges, property taxes at commercial rates, he said, adding that on top of this, the Home Ministry allowed e-commerce companies and their vehicles to run after April 20.
"This (April 15) order does not stop e-commerce companies from trading non-essential items. We demand from the government that the Home Ministry clarifies if the e-commerce companies have been allowed to trade non-essential items. Government should take steps so that a level-playing field is provided for these locked-down small-shop owners," he said at a press conference addressed through video.
Maken said the government should come forward for the rescue of small-shop owners. "We demand that the government waive fixed electricity charges for small traders and share their salary burden on the lines of MSMEs," he said. The Congress leader said as per the Sixth Economic Census, retail trade is the most dominant economic activity outside the agriculture sector, factoring for 35.41 per cent of the total.
As far as the employment generation is concerned, retail trade accounts for the one-fifth of total employment in India, giving employment to around 2.72 crore families, Maken said. He said other state governments should follow Congress-ruled Punjab and Rajasthan where fixed charges on electricity for non-domestic connections have been deferred by two months.