Partial to complete response to FDI bandh call

New Delhi: An all-India bandh called by traders to protest against foreign direct investment in retail today evoked partial to complete response but neighbourhood shops by and large remained open.

Shopkeepers in many cities took out marches demanding a rollback of the government move even as traders` bodies said the decision will create an uneven playing field in the country which will tilt towards multi-national companies and prove to be a "nightmare" for traders and consumers.

Confederation of All India Traders` (CAIT) Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal claimed traders across the country were participating in the day-long strike. However, reports reaching here said the response to it was partial in Delhi, Bihar and Assam. "Around five crore traders belonging to 10,000 traders` bodies across the country are participating in the bandh. Traders took out marches in commercial markets across the country," Khandelwal said.

Big markets like Karol Bagh, Sadar Bazar, Kamla Nagar, Chawri Bazar, Kashmere Gate, Tilak Nagar, Rohini, Krishna Nagar and Greater Kailash M Block in Delhi remained closed while Sarojini Nagar and INA markets functioned as usual. Neighbourhood shops were also open even as the protest received support from political parties like BJP and the Left.

BJP also joined the strike in Delhi by organising marches and burnt effigies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in at least 20 locations of the city.

Small and medium traders across Maharashtra including Mumbai downed their shutters. Federation of Assciations of Maharashtra (FAM), the apex body of 750 trade, transport and small-scale associations, claimed that about 35 lakh traders in the state had joined the strike. Most shops and establishments in West Bengal downed their shutters including in the wholesale market in Posta area of Burrabazar, the largest in the state.
Shops and business establishments in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Odisha by and large remained shut. Many private schools remained closed in Patna as a precautionary measure. While ruling NDA in Bihar has extended support to the strike, Congress and LJP have opposed it. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said he would not allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-breand retail.

"We have received good response for the bandh in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai as traders of the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) have joined call to support the one-day bandh. Major markets of grain, fruits and vegetables, onion and potato and `kirana` have observed bandh today," FAM President Mohan Gurnani said.

"Traders from all over the country, including Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Kerala and other states, are strongly opposing FDI in retail. This is a question of our existence and, hence, there are no divisions," he claimed. Maintaining that there was no need for foreign investment in the sector, Khandelwal said here, "The Government should withdraw the permission of FDI in retail".

He said Indian retail sector was being run successfully by the indigenous capital at the rate of 15 per cent and contributing 10 per cent of GDP. "So no FDI was required". "The foreign retailers can open in big cities, but they will source from mandis across rural India and small town. With their money and power over time, they can corner the supply of produce and dominate the outsources side," he said.