Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Wednesday rubbished the opposition's charge that the government had gone back on its promise of reaching out to all stakeholders on the issue of allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.
Firmly and categorically stating that the opposition charge was far from the truth, Sharma, who was participating in a debate under Rule 184 of the Rules of Business (which entails voting) in the Lok Sabha, said: "I acknowledge that if the government went back on the assurance on FDI in retail made in Parliament, that's a serious charge. However, the charge is far from the truth."
Reiterating that the UPA II Government remains committed to arriving at a consensus and will always encourage consultation on FDI, Sharma said: "Twelve farmer unions were consulted about allowing FDI in retail sector. BJP asked us why the government changed its stand. Our question is, why did they change their stand."
He further said he had personally seen to it that letters from the Centre had gone out to all chief ministers of state governments on the issue, and added that he had even interacted with state leaders at regular intervals to get a feedback and view on the issue. He said that eleven of the 21 states had welcomed the move to allow FDI in retail, while seven states had asked for more details before deciding on the matter.
He said that the organised retail sector just accounts for two percent of retail sales in India.
"McDonald's started making aloo tikki burger after entering India. Indians would not let go of their palate. Haldiram's now has 38 stores worldwide. Bikarnerwala is a Rs 1000 crore company with 85 stores across the world, said Sharma.
"Indian food giants like Haldiram's have flourished and opened stores across the world. Fears over entry of foreign retailers unfounded. Same fears were expressed when KFC etc were allowed entry into India. Price realisation of Indian farmers is 15 percent to 16 percent," the minister added.
"India is an agrarian state. Fifty-five percent to sixty percent population still survives on agriculture. India second in the world in foodgrain production, first in the world in milk production, but needs to have a proper food management system in place," Sharma said.
Sharma further said that relevant factors had been considered before allowing FDI in retail.
"FDI policy not an overnight decision of the government," said Sharma.
The Commerce Minister urged the House to reject the motions against FDI in retail.
"There is a difference between consensus and unanimity, says Sharma, adding we would have to wait forever to achieve unanimity on FDI in retail. Opposition can't tell an elected government what to choose and what not," Sharma said.
"Our sons and daughters will get jobs if FDI is allowed in the retail sector," he added.
As Sharma was speaking, the BSP and SP MPs walked out of the Parliament, indicating that they may abstain from voting on the issue, and give the government a much needed breather. (ANI)