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FDI in retail: Traders down shutters across the country

Mumbai: Traders in cities across the country are responding to the all-India bandh called in protest against Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail sector.

New Delhi

Neighbourhood shops were open but most of the markets in the national capital remained shut today as traders observed the all-India bandh in protest against Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail sector.

BJP also joined the traders’ protest 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.

Confederation of All India Traders’ Delhi unit president Narender Madan said a large number of traders have kept their shops shut to participate in the all-India bandh.

Madan claimed wholesale and retail markets were closed in Sadar Bazar, Kamla Nagar, Chawri Bazar, Karol Bagh, Kashmere Gate, Tilak Nagar, Rohini, Krishna Nagar and other markets.

CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said traders across the country were participating in the bandh to protest the government decision to allow FDI in retail.

“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.

Khandelwal said the decision on FDI will create an uneven playing field in the country which will tilt towards MNCs and prove to be a “nightmare” for traders and consumer.

“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.

Maharashtra

Over one lakh wholesalers, retailers and small traders across Mumbai Thursday 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.

“The response to the shutdown has been spontaneous and enthusiastic as it is a matter of the very survival of our traditional businesses on which nearly 20 percent of the Indian people directly or indirectly depend for their livelihood,” Shah told IANS.

He said jewellers, cloth merchants and oil depots, besides other professionals participated in the strike 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.

West Bengal

Most shops and establishments in both retail and wholesale segments in West Bengal today downed their shutters in response to an all-India strike called to protest the government’s decision to allow FDI in retail.

Most markets, including the wholesale market in Posta area of Burrabazar, the largest in the state, observed a day’s token strike.

The Confederation of West Bengal Trade Associations (CWBTA), the apex body of the most prominent trade associations of the state, having over five lakh small and medium level traders, said all sister trade bodies are supporting the bandh call.

The traders alleged that the Centre’s decision of allowing FDI in retail sector would spell disaster for small traders, in particular endangering the livelihood of millions of trading community.

Most of the political parties and trade unions have supported the day’s token strike.

Himachal Pradesh

Most shops and establishments in both retail and wholesale segments in West Bengal today downed their shutters in response to an all-India strike called to protest the government’s decision to allow FDI in retail.

Most markets, including the wholesale market in Posta area of Burrabazar, the largest in the state, observed a day’s token strike.

The Confederation of West Bengal Trade Associations (CWBTA), the apex body of the most prominent trade associations of the state, having over five lakh small and medium level traders, said all sister trade bodies are supporting the bandh call.

The traders alleged that the Centre’s decision of allowing FDI in retail sector would spell disaster for small traders, in particular endangering the livelihood of millions of trading community.

Most of the political parties and trade unions have supported the day’s token strike.

Tamil Nadu

Shop owners in downed their shutters today protesting against Centre’s decision to allow 51 per cent equity in multi-brand retail. Nearly 20 lakh traders in the state were participating in the dawn-to-dusk strike spearheaded by Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangakalin Peravai, a body representing traders. The Peravai leaders wanted the Centre to roll back the decision as FDI in retail trade would “harm” shop owners and workers.

The famous Koyambedu Vegetable Market in Chennai was also closed for the day as a mark of protest. However, hotels are not participating in the strike. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had strongly condemned the decision, alleging it was taken under pressure from a few retail giants. Tamil Nadu government would not allow multi-brand global players to set up their markets in the state, she had stated.

DMK President M Karunanidhi, who’s party is an ally in the the ruling UPA, had also raised apprehensions over the Centre’s decision and demanded the decision be withdrawn immediately. A report from Puducherry said all shops and business establishments downed their shutters to register their protest against the Centre’s decision.

The bandh was called by Puducherry Chamber of Commerce. Various political parties have also supported the bandh.

Karnataka

Large number of traders in Karnataka today downed their shutters and joined the protest against the Centre’s decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in retail trade.

Hundreds of shops across Bangalore, in upscale areas as well as middle and low-income areas, were shut Thursday 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.

Orissa

Shops and business establishments in several places of Odisha were shut today due to a country-wide bandh called to protest FDI in retail sector.

Trading activities were affected in places including the state capital Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur, Rourkela and Balasore during the shutdown.

The bandh was backed by different political parties, trade unions and socio-cultural organisations.

BJP’s traders’ cell also backed the shutdown and asked business establishments across the state to stop all activities during the protest action.

All Orissa Vendors Association has asked all their members throughout the state to stop business during the bandh called by the All India Retailer and Traders Association.

Tripura

Shops in Tripura today observed a total shut-down in response to the 12-hour trade bandh called to to protest FDI in retail.

Official reports said not a single shop was open anywhere in the state. The police said security had been beefed up all over the state.

The All Tripura Merchant Association and the All Tripura Grocery Association announced their support to the strike which has been called by the ‘Bharatiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal’, a national level traders’ consortium, and supported by the ruling CPI-M and the Tripura unit of BJP.

The opposition Congress has opposed the bandh.

“If foreign equity is allowed in the retail market, it would directly hit the livelihood of 22 crore small businessmen in the country which is not acceptable at all,” Tripura Food and Civil Supplies Minister Manik Dey had told reporters yesterday.

Jharkhand

Shops were closed in most areas of Jharkhand today in response to the shutdown called by traders to protest against FDI in retail.

Several parties in the state came out in support of the traders’ protest against the Centre’s decision to allow multinational brands in retail sector, police said.

Many long distance buses and trucks also remained off roads, they said.

Demonstrations were staged and protest march was taken out by retailers, traders, activists of BJP, Janata Dal (U), Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantric), the Left parties and trade unions against the Centre’s decision allowing multinational brands in the retail sector.

“The bandh is successful and has evoked spontaneous response from not only the retailers but also from the common people,” Vice President of the Federation of Jharkhand Chambers and Commerce Suresh Agarwal said.

Asserting that FDI in retail sector would ruin the agriculture sector in the long run, he said the Centre should withdraw its decision as it would affect five crore people.

Majority of shops and markets were closed in Jamshedpur, according to reports. Bandh supporters also forced banks, ATMs, petrol pumps and post office in some areas of the steel city to close down. The ruling BJP also joined the strike with its leaders and activists hitting the roads.

“The Centre should take decisions according to wishes of the people. Even there is resentment in its own party (Congress) and alliance against the FDI issue,” BJP’s state unit spokesman Pradip Sinha told reporters here.

Bokaro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Sanjay Vaide said the Centre’s decision was not “advisable as it will benefit only a few while affecting crores of people leading the country to economic slavery”.

The Jharkhand Truckers’ Association president, Uday Shankar Ojha said many traders did not join his protest in 2007 against the Centre’s decision to open the retail sector to the country’s private sectors like Reliance Fresh then.

“Now it’s a clear vindication of our campaign then as it was signal by the Centre to open foreign companies in the retail sector,” Ojha, who was arrested during that violent protest, claimed.

Gujarat

The call for a nation-wide bandh to protest against Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail sector today evoked a partial response in Gujarat with most of the shops remaining open in the new city area here.

However, local grocery shop owners and traders in old Ahmedabad observed a total bandh to oppose the FDI policy of the Centre.

Also, around 40,000 textile merchants in Surat observed bandh fearing adverse impact on their business.

“Close to 40,000 merchants and manufacturers are observing bandh as they fear that FDI in retail sector could adversely disturb their business,” President Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association Dev Kishan Mangani said.

“Majority of these merchant manufacturers have production capacity of 2-4 parcels of salwar suits and sarees per day (1 parcel equals 100 pcs) and have considerable presence through retail outlets,” he said.

The bandh, however, got a marginal response at the diamond market in Surat.
“It seems 50 per cent of diamond market is supporting the call for bandh. The FDI in retail would not impact the diamond traders much,” President Surat Diamond Association Dinesh Navadiya said.

In Rajkot, a prime business hub in the state, majority of shops remained closed in protest. Electronic show rooms and furniture market also remained shut.

“The Rajkot APMC has extended support to the bandh, paralysing the buying and selling at the yard,” President Rajkot APMC Hardevsinh Jadeja said.

However, the educational institutions and medical services remain unaffected.

The call for day-long bandh was given by Confederation of All India Trade and is supported by various trade unions and political parties like BJP and MJP (Maha Gujarat Janta party), an official said.

The Rajkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) has also supported the bandh. However, the Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry has abstained from it.

Punjab

Protesting against allowing 51 per cent FDI into multi-brand retail, trading community at various places in Punjab shut down their shops, but markets in Chandigarh and Haryana largely remained open.

Druggists and crop seed selling stores were, however, open.

Apart from this, large and branded stores like Reliance Fresh, departmental stores, neighborhood shops and malls also remained open, reports pouring in from various places across Punjab said.

The bandh had a major impact in major industrial cities, including Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar where main bazaars and markets remained closed.

In Chandigarh and Haryana, including Ambala, shopkeepers largely stayed away from the bandh call and opened their shops as usual.

Traders carried out protest rallies and burnt effigies in major industrial cities like Ludhiana and Amritsar to lodge their protest against the entry of multi-national companies into country’s retail market.

The effigies were burnt separately by local ‘Beopar’ Mandal and the BJP- an alliance partner of the SAD in the Parkash Singh Badal led ministry.

Members of the trading body could also be seen requesting shopkeepers and traders to shut down their shops in the wake of All India Bandh call, reports said.

“We requested shopowners and merchants not to open their stores today and they agreed to our plea. At some places shopkeepers fully supported the bandh call and did not open their shops,” Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal, Secretary, Mohinder Aggarwal said.

Traders claimed that they were getting full support of retailers and small shopkeepers to make the Bandh successful.

They asked the Centre to come out with a white paper on the entire FDI issue.

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