Left demands debate in Parliament over retail reforms

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 16, 2012 14:40 hrs

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said on Friday that Left parties have moved a resolution in parliament demanding a debate and casting of votes to determine whether the country is ready for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector.

Addressing a news conference here, Yechury said: "On this (FDI) issue, opposing this decision of the government, we will move notices, some of us have already moved the notices, and the others are moving the notices. All the leaders of the four parties will move notices in 184 in the Lok Sabha and 168 in Rajya Sabha, under these rules which entail voting."

Yechury said this is vital to a large section of population as one-fifth of the India survives because of the retail trade sector and by permitting FDI and displacing such a huge number of people is not in the interest of the country and illusions are created to mislead people.

"All the other arguments that the government is giving that this will increase employment, international studies have shown that for the same volume traded, your retail shops they employ 12 people, your big chains like the Wal-mart they employ four. So the ratio of employment is 1:3. So, far from employment opportunity is growing, the existing employment will be reduced. Secondly again international experience has shown, all this stock of farmers getting a better price is also a myth," said Yechury.

In September, the government allowed opening of retail sector for foreign investors, which allows global firms such as Wal-Mart Stores to set up shop with a local partner and sell directly to consumers for the first time, which supporters say could transform India's 450 billion dollar retail market and tame inflation.

The cabinet also approved bills to attract FDI into insurance and pensions in the latest move by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to restore confidence in the economy, but the reforms will face a tough fight in parliament.

Senior Communist Party of India leader D Raja appealed to all parties to take a similar stand to protect country's interests.

Yechury said that they want the upcoming winter session to function and would discuss major issues like CAG reports, coal blocks allocation and corruption issues.

"In this session, we want the session to function. We want that this session also should be a repeat of the last session, which was washed out according to us due to a match fixing between the Congress and the BJP. We do not want such a situation to arise now and we want to take up issues of public importance like price rise, the question of food security, the question of disinvestment that is taking place in a big way and importantly the question of our agrarian crises that is continuing and the farmers suicide that are continuing," said Yechury.

The Winter Session of Parliament will begin on November 22.

Yechury said they are not forcing for early elections, but warned that the Congress will lose public support as the 2014 general elections near.

"All the principal states from which they (Congress) have a large number of lawmakers today, all those states are in a state of crisis. Andhra Pradesh is the main state, there is a big problem their. So, it is because of their internal crises, I think they may want to go in for a, what is normally said as going for an early elections to cut their losses. The more they wait for 2014; they will lose more, so that may be their calculation. But none of us is forcing an early election," said Yechury.

A string of multi-billion dollar corruption scandals have added to middle class frustration with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government's record on corruption.

Fed up with the numerous multi-billion dollar scams uncovered in government, and the constant need to pay bribes for free public services, thousands took to the streets in August 2011, as India's social activist Anna Hazare, Kejriwal and others activists such as former top police officer Kiran Bedi - the first woman to join the Indian police service - held a series of hunger strikes and protests in New Delhi and elsewhere.

Corruption is a fact of life for hundreds of millions of Indians, who are forced to pay bribes for anything from a passport to a gas connection.

Analysts feel India's ruling Congress party, which has been in power for most of the time since independence in 1947, must initiate tangible action against graft before national elections in 2014 to quell mass anger and frustration.

Reacting on the Rahul Gandhi, Yechury said the charge of Congress was already in the hands of Rahul Gandhi.

"We thought they had handed over charge earlier, a formal announcement has been made now," said Yechury.

India is due to hold 10 state level elections next year and must hold a general election by 2014, where a Congress party-led coalition will seek a third consecutive term.

Talking about telecom auction, Yechury said the government and corporates are keeping the telecom price low for their vested interests.

"For 122 licences, the government of India earned little over Rupees 9000 crore (90 billion rupees). On 22 circles, that were auctioned yesterday, the government got already more than what it earned on 122 circles. Both the government and the corporates have vested interests to keep the price low and to say that nothing wrong has happened in the earlier auction," said Yechury.

The 2G scam involved ministers, lawmakers and government officials, who undercharged mobile telephony companies for frequency allocation licenses.

The shortfall between the money collected and the money which the law mandated to be collected was estimated to be 176,645 crore rupees by Comptroller and Auditor General of India 2010. However the exact loss is disputed.

In a charge sheet filed on April 2, 2011 by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the agency pegged the loss at 30,984.55 crore rupees, whereas the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India claims that the government actually gained rupees 3,000 crore rupees by selling the spectrum. (ANI)

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