Shillong, Oct 18 (IANS) Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma Thursday welcomed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail and mining, despite opposition from several civil society groups.
"FDI in retail would help in doing away with middlemen and benefit farmers, who form 80 percent of the population, and also consumers," Sangma told IANS.
Although none of the towns in this hill state qualifies for FDI in retail because none of them has a population of one million, the chief minister exuded confidence that the policy would be changed so that smaller states like Meghalaya too get the benefit of FDI in retail.
"FDI would also help structure investment in the state in terms of setting high trade standards and providing for employment and technology transfer," he said.
Moreover, Sangma said that farmers' produce would get the facility of cold storage and this would lead to less wastage and better prices for growers.
However, the Indigenous Biodiversity and Social Welfare Organisation (IBSWO) has vowed not to allow FDI in multi-brand retail in this mountainous state.
"Entry of retailers like Wal-Mart, Carrefour Sa, TESCO and transnational (TNC) or multinational (MNC) retail companies will cause conflict with the intention and provisos of the Meghalaya Land Transfer Act of 1971," ISBWO senior adviser P.B.M. Basaiawmoit said.
Under the existing Land Transfer Act, even though non-tribals are barred from acquiring land in the Sixth Schedule areas under the control of the three autonomous district councils, any tribe from the northeast in the Scheduled Tribes list can buy and sell land in Meghalaya.
Stating that FDI in mining has been there in Meghalaya for years, Sangma said, "In the mining sector, Meghalaya is already having French cement-manufacturing giant Lafarge investing substantially in the state."
"The Meghalaya mining policy, which was approved recently, has also welcomed FDI, provided local interests are not hurt," he claimed.
His statement, though, contradicted an earlier statement from Deputy Chief Minister Bindo Lanong, who holds the charge of mining and geology portfolio and said that the state government has done away with FDI in mining.
"The government has done away with that clause in the Mines and Mineral Policy that encourages foreign direct investment in the mining sector," Lanong told IANS early Thursday.
Several organisations under the banner Social Organisations of Meghalaya against Land Alienation (SOMALA) had demanded repeal of the FDI clause from the Meghalaya Mines and Minerals Policy, 2012.
The opposition National People's Party and the Meghalaya state unit of Bharatiya Janata Party had also criticised the cabinet decision to allow FDI in mining, saying that it would have a negative impact on small-time miners and lead to total sellout of the the natural resources of the state.