Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela
Consultations on Multi Brand Retail Trade held
The Department of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, of Government of India jointly held consultations with the consumer groups, on 12th January, at Krishi Bhavan, New Delhi. Representatives of some of the leading consumer organizations participated in the consultations. Sri Rajiv Agrawal, Secretary (Consumer Affairs), chaired the meeting, which was also attended by senior officials of both the Departments.
Sri B.Vaidyanathan, Chief Mentor, Consumer Protection Council, Rourkela, who made a presentation pointed out that the whole issue has to be seen in a wider perspective. He strongly argued that the Multi Brand Retail Trade (MBRT) will enable companies like Wal-Mart, which alone had an annual turnover of $ 422 billions (Rs. 21,10,000 crores), which is twice as much as that of the entire turnover of Indian Retail Sector, had the potential to decimate the Indian manufacturing sector. This is more so as the manufacturing sector is not as competitive as that of its Chinese counterpart. The agricultural sector and the consumers would lose out in due course. He warned that the Retail, which is a ‘Forced Employment’ sector, is providing employment to 4 crores and the entry of giants like Wal-Mart, which are managing their business with only 15 lakhs employees, will render huge number of people redundant, with immeasurable human cost. So, he suggested the government to take adequate steps to strengthen the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, before introducing MBRT. He concluded that competition was essential and helped the cause of the consumers. But introducing FDI in Retail meant allowing 70% of the turnover from outside the country, which posed serious problems.
Several consumer representatives, belonging to Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, Consumer Education & Reasearch Centre, Common Cause and others expressed their reservations in proceeding with the proposal in the present form. Many wanted the government to consider enhancing the minimum level of indigenized procurement from 30% to 50%, enhancing the population limit of cities for establishing of the MBRT Malls from 10 lakhs to 30 lakhs, introducing safeguards for protecting the consumers and strengthening the Competition Commission of India. Certain organizations like CUTS, welcomed the government initiative.