By Raza Elahi
Manmohan Singh is back in form. Ready to pull the bouncers straight behind the ropes. He played exemplary well as finance minister in the 1990s; he remained unbeaten as prime minister during UPA I. He brought cheers to his fans when he opened up the innings again for UPA II. But the continuous bouncers and yorkers from its allies and the Opposition put him in the back foot. Though he ducked and defence many of the them, yet he was not able to score. When the cry for fours and sixers got loud and louder, he thought time had come for do or die. Now, with his changed stance he is set to regain his lost grounds.
The confidence is now seen. Shrugging of protests, his government notified the rules to permit foreign chains into the multi-brand retail segment on Thursday, the day of a nationwide shutdown organised by some of its allies and the Opposition. Besides FDI in multi-brand retail, his other recent bold measures -- like opening up aviation sector, cap on subsidised LPG cylinders -- will certainly revive the economy.
The opponents of FDI in multi-brand retail are reacting in the same manner as vampires react to garlic. It is laughable to hear from them that the FDI in multi-brand retail will be the death knell for petty shopkeepers across the country and will create unemployment. They also argue that farmers will be exploited by foreign retailers. All these are myths.
The political parties like the BJP and the Trinamool Congress are opposing the move spreading these myths just to get their vote-bank strong. While the Trinamool is claiming itself as messiah of garibs, the BJP pretends to be the protectors of banias (who mostly own small kirana shops across the country).
It may not be wrong to remind them that every move of economic reform introduced by the Congress in the country was opposed either by the Left or the right-wing parties or the so-called Third alternatives. Some of them even opposed the introduction of computers. They cited the danger of jobs being destroyed, but see how computerisation has changed the nation.
When the multi-national companies (MNCs) and foreign banks where allowed in the country, the same people propagated the wrong slogans of foreign competition wiping out Indian businesses. Today, the difference is seen. The entry of MNCs and foreign banks has lifted the spirit and work culture of our domestic banks and offices. These critics have been proved wrong all the time. The Indian economy has grown against all the odds.
Coming back on the recent opposition of the retail FDI, I can say with 100% guarantee that the entry of Walmart and Carrefour etc is not going to affect our neighbourhood kiranas. Whether it is Goyalji in Delhi or Gopalji in Muzaffarpur or Govardhanji in South, all of them will thrive in the growing economy because they offer household items on credit to their customers, do home delivery of even single item even at odd hours or at short notices (as most of the Indian housewives have the habit of missing something very important when they enter into the kitchen).
Secondly, all these multi-brand retailers are not going to open their stores in every nook and corner of the country (there are certain government guidelines for opening up stores for them). Thirdly, if certain percent of our population prefer to buy from Walmart or Carrefour even then the remaining percent of population will be in crores, who will continue to depend on the local kiranas.
Further, there have been many instances reported from Punjab and Haryana that the middlemen are making money by giving farmers a very low price for their produce compared to the price the later sell in the market or wholesale mandi. With the entry of foreign retailers farmers can directly sell to them and will certainly get better prices. The opening of foreign retail stores will also create more job openings. So, none of the opponents’ arguments have any merit in them.
The government has done exceedingly well by giving a full page advertisement in many of our national dailies making people aware of the benefit of its retail FDI decision.
Let's hope Manmohan Singh's late attacking innings may put India on a stronger economic note.