New Delhi: Defending FDI in multi-brand retail, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal Tuesday said the move would benefit farmers, consumers and youth, and accused the opposition of siding with middlemen.
Participating in a debate in the Lok Sabha on FDI in multi-brand retail, Sibal also argued that the debate was not needed and was just political in nature.
Pointing out that the policy was needed keeping in mind the economic growth of the country, he said that foreign investment would help the manufacturing sector and create jobs for millions of youth entering the workforce in the coming decades.
"Youth would need jobs. The manufacturing sector can provide it. You are against the youth," Sibal said. He added: "The purpose of the policy is that the farmer should get a higher price than he gets in the mandi (market)."
"Only 15 to 17 percent of the market price goes to the farmer. Opposition leaders should decide whether they are with the farmer or with the middleman. We are with the farmer and consumer. You (opposition) are with the middleman," Sibal said.
The minister cited the case of West Bengal, saying Pepsico bought agricultural produce from 10,000 farmers in the state.
"The market price of potatoes is Rs.3 per kg, Pepsico gives Rs.7 per kg," he said.
Taking a dig at the BJP and the CPI-M, which wanted a debate, he asked why the BJP changed its position on FDI in retail between 2004 and 2009 and said it meant "foreign direct ideology" for the Left party.
Sibal said the BJP favoured 26 percent FDI in retail in its 2004 vision document but dropped the idea later. He also quoted CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury saying FDI in retail was welcome, although with some riders.
He also stressed that implementing FDI in retail was dependent on state governments and no one was being forced to accept it.
"It was decided that retail will only be in cities with over 10 lakh population. There are 53 such cities. After that we felt some states have opposition governments. If we separate the states that don't want it, there are 18 cities left," Sibal said.
"So if FDI in retail will be implemented in only 18 cities, why the debate," he said.
"If you don't want FDI in multi-brand retail, don't (implement it). But what about the states where chief ministers want it, how can you stop them? This is a new definition of federal structure that one state will tell another that I will not implement it but will not let you do it either," he said.
"This debate is not needed at all, it is a totally political debate," he said.
Enumerating the merits of the policy, he said the investors will have to invest at least $100 million, half of which will be in creating infrastructure.
Sibal said while the government formulated policies keeping in mind the people of the country, the opposition was merely eyeing the treasury benches.