Thursday, 20 September 2007

Who benefits from FDI in India Food Retail ?

The India FDI Watch Campaign seeks to prevent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the retail sector in India. India FDI Watch is a national coalition of labour unions, trade associations, environmentalists, NGOs and academics that have formed to block attempts to allow foreign direct investment in India’s retail markets. FDI in retail will amount to job losses in the thousands as well as thousands more small businesses and kiranas being forced to close. It will continue the race to the bottom in wages and working conditions that Wal-Mart and other multinational mega-retailers have spread across the globe. Multinationals look at India, with its 1.2 billion people, as a vast, untapped market, but we do not want to become the next country to have our cultural traditions, worker's rights, environment, and independence destroyed by Wal-Mart. Contact us for more information.

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For more information: download the India FDI Watch Brochure.

For more information, download the India FDI Watch Brochure (in Hindi).

Thousands protested to oppose the Bharti-Walmart Joint Venture

On the heels of the announcement of the Bharti-Walmart joint venture, thousands of traders, hawkers, farmers and workers protested across India. Protesters also included a group of American students who demanded that Wal-Mart not be allowed into India. Mass-based organizations called on the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi to immediately stop the Bharti-Walmart Joint Venture and not allow Wal-Mart’s backdoor entry into India. There was also a strong united call on all corporations—both foreign and domestic—to "Quit Retail". The protests were timed to commemorate the start of the "Quit India" movement, which started on August 9, 1942, with mass-based sections of society drawing parallels to the East India Company and companies like Wal-Mart, Bharti and Reliance.

Agitations took place in the metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata along with other major cities including, Kalicut, Bhopal, Jaipur, Ranchi, Balia, Meerath, Sonipat, Nagpur, Nasik, Pune and Indore.

In Delhi, thousands of traders, hawkers, farmers and workers protested in Chandni Chowk, a historical market, and burned effigies of Wal-Mart, Bharti and Reliance. Dharmendra Kumar, Director of India FDI Watch and national coordinator of the Vyapaar Aur Rozgaar Bachao Andolan conducted the proceedings and told the agitators, "Both Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh have acknowledged the dangers of corporations entering into the retail sector. The Govt. has commissioned a report looking at the impact of the entire supply chain on livelihoods after Sonia Gandhi had written a letter of caution. Sonia Gandhi had also publicly refused to meet with Michael Duke, Wal-Mart Vice-Chairman during his visit in February after public demonstrations were held due to his arrival. However, both Sonia Gandhi and the PMO have remained silent on the Bharti-Wal-Mart deal and though they have publicly cautioned against corporations and commissioned a study, they have taken no subsequent actions. He demanded that the Wal-Mart Bharti joint venture should be immediately revoked and all corporations should be stopped until thorough study has been conducted by an independent special task force comprising of stakeholders."

Shyam Bihari Mishra, President, Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal refered back to the British Raj, stating, "The East India Company, the most powerful company at the time, came to colonize India’s people and domestic and international trade and now Wal-Mart, the world’s largest company is trying to enter India to do the same. Mr. Mishra said India has a history of resistance, our people threw out the British and sixty years later if millions have their businesses and livelihoods threatened we will do the same now. He announced that family members of traders would boycott corporate stores." Praveen Khandelwal, General Secretary, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said "The livelihoods of retail traders are at stake. If big retail giants like Wal-Mart and Reliance come into the country, small traders would be finished." A mass campaign would be launched to strike back and make corporations realise that we will not let them ruin our livelihoods, he said.

Vandana Shiva, Director, Navdanya said "India is a land of retail democracy- hundreds of thousands of weekly haats and bazaars are located across the length and breadth of our country by people’s own self-organizational capacities. In a country with large numbers of people, and high levels of poverty, the existing model of retail democracy is the most appropriate in terms of economic viability and ecological sustainability.".

Shaktiman Ghosh, General Secretary, National Hawkers Federation warned the government "about taking such strong stances against India’s millions of hawkers and small shopkeepers in favor of only a few huge corporations who seek to dominate the Indian retail market."

Mr. Indu Prakash of Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform revealed the nexus between judiciary and corporate retail which led to the ceiling of shops of more than one hundred thousands of traders of Delhi and still goes on.

Mr. Bhati of Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, Delhi, Harbhajan Singh Siddhu, National Secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Sunil Kansal, Secretary, Rashtriya Vyapar Mandal, Hakim Singh Rawat, General Secretary, Delhi Hawkers Welfare Association, Banwari Lal Sharma, President, Aazadi Bachaon Aandolan, R K Sharma, Secreatry, UTUC-Lenin Sarani and Venkatesh of Lok Raj Sangathan also addressed the protesters in Delhi.

In Mumbai, thousands of retailers, hawkers, workers and cooperatives participated in a one day trade bandh and a mass public event organized by the Vyapaar Rozgaar Suraksha Kriti Samiti, a joint action committee of trade associations, hawkers groups, trade unions and others. Leaders of Federation of Associations of Maharastra (FAM), Retail and Dispensing Chemists Association (RDCA), India FDI Watch, Mumbai Mahanagar Vyapari Seva Parishad (MMVSP), Mumbai Vyapar Mahasang (MVM), Apna Bazaar, National Hawkers Federation, Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat (HMKP) addressed the protesters. Mohan Gurnani, Convener of the Mumbai based Vyapaar Rozgaar Suraksha Kriti Samiti and President of the Federation of Associations of Maharastra (FAM) said "organised retaling would leave 20 crore people without jobs. Let the government first come out with a rehabilitation for these people and then it can open up FDI in retail". Kishore Shah, President of the Mobile & Telecom Retailers and Distributors Association (MTRDA), stated that around 12,000 retail shop-keepers deal in SIM cards and recharge vouchers of Air-Tel in Mumbai, generating business worth crores of rupees every day. Mr. Shah said "We have already informed all our members, distributors and wholesalers against selling any Airtel products". The Mumbai APMC—wholesale— market remained closed, along with thousands of retail shops across the city, including all chemists and druggists shops. Apna Bazaar, Maharastra’s largest cooperative store also downed its shutters and wholesale markets remained closed in Nasik and Pune.
At an evening event at Shanmukananda Hall in Mumbai mass-based groups laid out a future course of action and adopted a charter of demands. They called on the Center to immediately repeal the Wholesale Cash-n-Carry Permission, and all licenses granted under the permission; repeal the APMC Model Act, implement the National Policy on Street Vendors, take measures against predatory pricing and formulate a national policy on retail trade and small scale industries.

In Bangalore thousands protested at the town hall and burned effigies of corporate retailers like Wal-Mart and Reliance. The protest culminated in leaders presenting the Governor with a memorandum calling on the state to repeal the recent passage of the APMC Model Act. A Charter of Demands, same as was passed in Mumbai, was also placed before the District Collector. Smaller protests were organized throughout the state in different districts including Kodagu, Bijapur, Gulbarga and Davangere districts.

In Jaipur fifty American students joined with hawkers demanding that Wal-Mart leave India and demanding implementation of the National Policy on Street Vendors. The American students and hawkers demonstrated in the old city and held signs saying "Americans Oppose Wal-Mart Everywhere". Ms. Cheryl, an American citizen, learning Hindi at Jaipur said that Wal-Mart has a disastrous impact on small shopkeepers and neighbourhood communities in America and called Indians to learn from their experience and not to allow Wal-Mart to operate in India. Ms. Cheryl said that the world is moving from ‘Corporate to Cooperative’ and Indians should not corporatize their cooperatives.

In Kerala the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Egono Samiti organized protest marches in over 1000 places across the state. In Kalicut over 10,000 traders protested in front of the corporation’s office and submitted a memorandum demanding that corporations keep out of retail and the immediate halt to Wal-Mart’s backdoor entry and the repeal of the Wholesale Cash-N-Carry permission.

In Kolkata the Federation of Trade Organizations (FTO) of West Bengal organized protests in all the 12 districts of the city along with protests across West Bengal, including in front of malls. Tens of thousands traders participated in the protest. In the evening, thousands of hawkers took out a protest march from the city museum.

In Ranchi, Uday Shankar Ojha who led the vegetable vendors before Reliance Fresh in May and has only recently been released from Jail, led thousands of hawkers and vegetable vendors at Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi, demanding that Reliance Fresh and all other corporations leave the retail sector and "withdraw their sinister plans to displace millions of livelihoods".

In Bhopal there was a state-level protest meeting in the morning at Gandhi Bhavan and traders sat on a dharna at Roshanara Chowk in the afternoon and burn effigies of Wal-Mart, Bharti and Reliance. A call for Bhopal Bandh was given for 21 August to oust corporate from retail trade.

Similar protests were organized in other cities including Allahabad, Lucknow, Meerut, Bagpat and Sonipat.

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