Rejecting calls for rollback of the decision to allow 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, the government yesterday asked the agitating traders to offer suggestions on the necessary safeguards within one week. It also decided to form a joint working group of traders and government officials to address the concerns of the trading community.
This came as the result of a meeting between the union commerce and industry minister, Anand Sharma and the representatives of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) in Delhi, in which the parties found they did not share common ground on the issue.
While maintaining that there was no question of the government reversing the FDI policy decision, Sharma reassured the traders of the willingness of the government to form a joint committee with three representatives each from the traders and the government to look into the traders' suggestions . The traders were asked by the commerce minister to come out with suggestions on the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail within one week.
The joint working group is likely to be headed by the department of industry policy and promotion (DIPP) secretary, P K Chaudhary. Meanwhile, the government has taken up the process of issuing the guidelines on the new FDI policy and indicated that nothing had been put on hold. According to a senior official, the government was open to suggestions for the safeguards that were being talked about and was ready to address various concerns, without holding back on the policy.
Traders remain apprehensive that with the entry of global retailers, like Wal-Mart and Carrefour, there would be large-scale closure of neighbourhood 'kirana' shops. Asked whether traders would end the protest, CAIT's secretary general Praveen Khandelwal said the issue would be decided by CAIT's national governing council, which will meet in Nagpur on 12-13 December.
Various traders' associations in Assam observed a bandh on Thursday in protest against the decision of opening FDI in multibrand retail. In Guwahati, all shops remained closed while traders' associations demanded a change in the government's decision.