Delhi may soon become the first city in the country to have multinational retail outlets, with the Sheila Dikshit-led government fast-tracking the process to clear hurdles in way of the controversial policy.
The Delhi government has decided to amend the existing laws to ensure implementation of the Centre's decision on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail and facilitate entry of multinational firms.
The Congress-led UPA government had on September 14 announced 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multibrand retail. While the decision drew ire from several Opposition parties, including the BJP, business leaders have welcomed it.
At a public meeting held at her residence on Monday, Dikshit talked about easing the norms to allow a direct link between farmers and foreign retailers. Thousands of Congress supporters gathered at her residence to express their solidarity with the government on the issue.
Arguing in favour of the decision, the chief minister said: "Forty per cent of foodgrains, fruits and vegetables that rot due to lack of proper storage facilities would be saved after implementation of the FDI decision as the number of cold storages will go up substantially. Also, consumers will get quality goods at cheaper rates."
Incidentally, when the Delhi CM was explaining the benefits of FDI, her West Bengal counterpart and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was holding a protest at Jantar Mantar slamming the government over the move.
According to government sources, Dikshit has directed all the departments concerned to move fast on the issue.
The CM said her government would make amendments to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act for easing certain norms which will allow retailers to directly purchase the farmers' produce.
In a bid to free farmers from the clutches of middlemen, the Delhi government's development department has been told to identify such spaces across the city where the farmers from neighbouring states could come and sell their produce.
PUSH FOR RETAIL THERAPY
- Almost 30-40 per cent of total food is wasted in transportation and because of poor storage facilities. The government has made it compulsory for foreign retailers to invest at least 50 per cent on infrastructure
- Currently, farmers can sell their produce only at government wholesale markets in Delhi, which are in the grip of middlemen. The Delhi government will bring in amendments to the APMC Act to break the monopoly of wholesale markets so that retailers can directly buy agricultural produce from farmers
- The amendments will come up in the Cabinet first, and, if need be, a one-day assembly session can be called in November to amend the APMC Act
In the present system, farmers cannot sell their products directly to the retailers in the city. They have to sell their produce like fruits and vegetables in government wholesale markets.
All these markets at Azadpur, Okhla, Shahdara are in the grip of middlemen, who make huge profits by exploiting farmers. Prices of vegetables go several times up by the time they reach the kitchen.
Union commerce minister Anand Sharma, who was also present at Dikshit's residence, said middlemen would be the only losers with the entry of foreign retailers.
He said the big retail giants buy the farmers' produce directly from them, thereby eliminating the role of the middlemen. "The farmers will get far better price which can be 15-20 per cent higher than what they get now. In the present system, the farmers get approximately only 30-35 per cent of the retail price," Sharma said.
Lambasting the BJP on the issue, Sharma said the NDA government had prepared a Cabinet note favouring 100 per cent FDI in the sector.
He said the government has taken the decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multibrand retail considering the economic fundamentals and ground realities of the country and the BJP's opposition to it reflected the party's "hollowness". Sharma appealed to the Congress workers to go to the people and educate them about the benefits of the policy while exposing BJP's double standards.
To counter the Opposition parties, the Congress will organise a big rally at Ramlila Maidan on October 28 which will be addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party president Sonia Gandhi besides other senior leaders.Courtesy: Mail Today