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Walmart go back, say traders; protests over Flipkart deal to continue

Walmart go back, say traders; protests over Flipkart deal to continue

Walmart, on the other hand, maintains that the deal with Flipkart will not only prove beneficial for small supplier and farmers, but will also generate employment.

Yesterday, hundreds of traders across 500 cities staged a protest against Walmart's $16-billion majority stake acquisition in Flipkart. The nation-wide protest organised by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) was supposed to be much larger. On Sunday, CAIT had said that nearly 10 lakh traders would take to the streets at about 1,000 places but according to Reuters, the actual turnout was far fewer. Their big concern is that the Walmart deal will facilitate a "backdoor entry" for Walmart into retail trade and hurt smaller offline retailers.

In Guwahati, about 300 traders gathered to protest against the Walmart-Flipkart deal, said Rupam Goswami, vice president of CAIT, adding that they also demanded simplification of the nationwide sales tax. But the sit-in in Delhi, where CAIT is based, attracted just about 50 traders and shopkeepers by noon. They reportedly carried signs saying "Walmart Go Back".

"This is the first phase of our protest. And if the government doesn't listen, we will decide our future course of action at our national convention in Delhi later this month," Praveen Khandelwal, the CAIT secretary general told the agency. He has previously alleged that the "e-commerce market place has been vitiated to a great extent in past years by several leading e-commerce companies by indulging into all kinds of malpractices including predatory pricing, deep discounting and loss funding".

He further claimed that at a time when there is no policy for e-commerce, it would be a cake walk for Walmart to circumvent the FDI policy Press Note No 3 of 2016. The latter, released in 2016, enlists guidelines for foreign direct investment in e-commerce sector. For instance, it states that no discounting is allowed and that no inventory ownership, directly or indirectly, is allowed by e-commerce marketplaces.

According to Khandelwal, CAIT has already filed its objections in Competition Commission of India and if need arises it shall challenge the deal in the court of law. "We have been expecting the government to reject this deal, but so far, we haven't heard from them ... We will fight this deal tooth and nail, and, if necessary, take this matter to the Supreme Court," Khandelwal told Mint.

However, he is hopeful that the government will intervene soon. "We expect the government to intervene and take suitable action in accordance with various announcements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to uplift small businesses in the country. This deal will directly affect small traders of the country who will not be able to compete with Walmart," he said.

Walmart, on the other hand, maintains that the deal with Flipkart will not only prove beneficial for small supplier and farmers, but will also generate employment. "Our partnership with Flipkart will provide thousands of local suppliers and manufacturers access to consumers through the marketplace model," Rajneesh Kumar, senior vice president, Walmart India, said in a statement on Monday. Walmart currently runs 21 cash-and-carry stores in India. "This partnership will support SME suppliers, farmers in the country to get access to the market through this platform and boost local manufacturing in India. We believe the combined capabilities of Flipkart and Walmart will create India's leading e-commerce platform," added Kumar.

With agency inputs