People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 03, 2007
‘Frame National Policy To Regulate Organised Sector In Retail Trade’
CPI(M) Releases Its Proposal For Discussion
THE Communist Party of India (Marxist) has released a 6-page proposal for a ‘National Policy on Regulation of Organised Sector in Retail Trade’ and sought wide discussions on it from all political parties, organisations and people of the country.
Party general secretary Prakash Karat releasing the document at a media conference at AKG Bhavan on May 30 said that since the organised corporate sector was making huge forays into retail trade, the CPI(M) proposal sought stringent regulations on it.
The central committee meeting held in April this year had decided to bring out a position paper on the need to regulate organised sector in retail trade. Since this was a new area for the country, government and political parties, it took some time in formulating this proposal by the Party. He reminded about the Left parties strong opposition to the entry of FDI in retail trade and their efforts in the last three years to convince the government. But with the indigenous corporate sector entering this sector in a big way during this period, the threat of loss of jobs and livelihood to lakhs of people involved in retail and petty trade cropped up.
In this situation the CPI(M) was placing this proposal and Karat underlined that the Party would like to hear views of all other political parties – not just the ruling parties – on this important issue. He cautioned that this proposal is not the final position of the CPI(M) on this issue as this was a new area.
In response to a question Karat clarified that the Party has not talked with the government on this issue so far. Asked whether the Party run governments in Bengal and Kerala would go ahead and implement the proposals, he said this proposal is for a national policy. “Although Bengal and Kerala have reservations about the current proliferation of organised retail trade, what is required is a national policy to regulate this”, he said. Karat hoped that the Party would be able to build a wider agreement among political parties on this proposal.
On the brutal police firing in Dausa in Rajasthan, Karat reminded how the BJP raised a hue and cry on Nandigram incident and asked the party to spell out what action it proposed to take against its state government in Rajasthan. He strongly condemned the latest heavy-handed police repression in the state in which 14 people were killed.
Karat also informed the media about the improved performance of the Party in the bye-elections to Bengal panchayat bodies. He said the Party has improved in West Medinipur district in which falls Nandigram area as also in Singur area. He noted that this was despite the mahajot formed by Congress-BJP-Trinamul Congress and other anti-CPI(M)” forces.
The Left Parties have been strongly opposed to the entry of MNCs in Retail Trade. Meanwhile several Indian corporate houses have entered the retail sector and are expanding their operations aggressively. These developments in the retail sector are having an adverse impact on the livelihoods of a large section of people who are engaged in unorganized retail across the country. In this backdrop the CPI(M) is putting forward a proposal to adopt stringent regulations on the organized sector in retail trade.
The CPI (M) proposes that a system of licensing should be introduced for organized retail. Any retail outlet with floor area over an appropriate minimum floor area should require prior license from local authorities (city corporations or municipalities).
A dedicated committee/board/department should be set up by the urban local bodies, with representation from street vendors and small retailer associations, which should be empowered to grant licenses to organized retailers.
Licenses should be given on the basis of a population criterion, i.e. not more than X number of large format retail stores per Y population. The criteria may vary between states and cities depending upon the nature of the retail sector and needs of consumers.
Besides a system of licensing for organized retailers, a number of steps need to be taken by the Government to prevent the emergence of private monopolies in Retail Trade. A single large format retailer should not be allowed to capture a large market share. For this it is important to restrict the number of retail outlets that a single private entity can open in a city, state as well as region.
In order to prevent the development of big private monopolies it is also important for the Government to ensure its presence in the market. Several Government marketing agencies exist, both at the Central as well as State levels, which need to be revived and made to reinvest in modernising infrastructure. Partnerships between existing Government marketing agencies and cooperatives can also be considered, especially in food retail where synergies exist.
A host of measures to regulate and monitor contract farming have been suggested in order to protect the interests of the farmers. The CPI (M) demands that necessary changes need to be made in the Model APMC Act of the Centre as well as the new APMC Acts adopted by several State Governments to incorporate the regulations suggested.
The CPI (M) proposal is being sent to all political parties and other organizations. The UPA Government should consider the proposals to regulate organized retail seriously and take immediate initiatives to frame a national policy in this regard.