Sharma reaches out to MPs on FDI in retail

New Delhi: In the face of stiff opposition in Parliament to FDI in retail, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma today sought to reach out to MPs and state Chief Ministers and appealed to them to rise above "petty" partisanship on the issue. "I felt it is my duty to dispel some apprehensions expressed by certain political parties," he said in his letter to members of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

The letter was sent to senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, CPI(M) Member of Parliament Sitaram Yechuri, RJD Party chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Odisha Chief Minister Navin Patnaik, among others.

The parties should rise above "petty" partisanship and strengthen Indian political systems, he said, adding that wide consultations were held before the decision was taken.

The government has come under attack on allowing 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the multi-brand retail sector dominated by small-size kirana stores to attract global giants like Walmart to open stores in India.

Both the Opposition and UPA allies Trinamool Congress and DMK have demanded a roll-back of the decision, which was taken by the Union Cabinet on November 24. Sharma said, "In formulating this policy, we were conscious of the livelihood concerns of millions of small retailers."

Studies on the global experience with foreign investment in multi-brand retail revealed that even in developing countries such as China, Brazil, Argentina, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, local retailers have found innovative ways to co-exist with organised retail chains.

Sharma said the government was also mindful of ensuring food security for the poorest of the poor, retaining the first right to procurement of foodgrains. The first right would rest with the government public distribution system, he said.

On concerns over the predatory pricing that may be resorted to by multi-national retailers, he said the Competition Commission would ensure that such practices are scrutinised.

"I have specially discussed the matter with the Chairman of the Competition Commission to bring in a regulator… to ensure necessary checks and balances," he said.