Thousands in India protest foreign investment in retail sector

NEW DELHI - Thousands of traders, farmers, hawkers and shopkeepers gathered in India’s financial capital of Mumbai on Wednesday to protest against the entry of foreign multinationals and domestic corporate groups in the country’s retail sector.

By (DPA)

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Published: Wed 10 Oct 2007, 5:14 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:24 PM

An estimated 20,000 people converged at the Azad Maidan Grounds for the biggest-ever protest in the country against large Indian retailers like Reliance and Bharti and foreign giants like WAl Mart Stores, whose plans protestors said would destroy millions of livelihoods.

Organized under the National Movement for Retail Democracy (NMRD), the demonstrators demanded that big corporations quit the retail business.

People took to the streets before reaching the Azad Maidan grounds for the rally and shouted slogans against the corporates and the government. Farmers and merchants wearing traditional shirts shouted slogans such as ‘WAl Mart quit India.’

‘We are against the government policy of permitting foreign direct investment in retail and entry of big Indian businesses in retail. Fifty million traders, big and small, will be affected,’ Mohan Gurnani, president of Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM), one of the organizers of the rally, told reporters.

‘It is sheer injustice as tens of thousands of small traders and farmers will be left without work. We are here at the rally to oppose such plans,’ a farmer told the NDTV network.

Many markets, including the APMC market in Mumbai, the wholesale vegetable hubs in the city and other major trading centres remained closed in support of the protest.

The corporate giants are spearheading a retail revolution and are establishing a number of supermarkets in the country. The retail sector in India, among the largest in the world, is estimated to be worth 350 billion dollars.

Apart from Reliance Retail, which has already established stores in cities and small towns, Bharti Retail is the other major player planning an entry after firming up a joint venture with WAl Mart for cash-and-carry and retail back-end operations.

Foreign brand retailers in India are limited to cash-and-carry and franchise operations. Germany’s Metro, Britain’s Tesco and France’s Carrefour are all interested in starting operations in India but have suspended investment plans due to the uncertainty.

Wednesday’s protests follows similar demonstrations held in the Indian states of Kerala, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh against the giant retail corporates.

Some states like Uttar Pradesh have already stalled the expansion plans of the retail groups which resulted in Reliance deciding to close stores and lay off 1,000 staff from its operations.

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