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Govt offers probe into Walmart FDI lobbying

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 11, 2012
First Published: 12:15 IST(11/12/2012) | Last Updated: 01:27 IST(12/12/2012)

To stem the continued disruptions by the opposition parties in Parliament, the UPA government on Tuesday offered to probe the possible Indian beneficiaries of retail giant Walmart's lobbying to gain access to the Indian markets.

Though the government didn't spell out how it will conduct the investigation, opposition parties demanded a time-bound judicial enquiry or a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to look into the issue.

The demand for a probe came following the recent disclosure by Walmart that it spent R125 crore in last four years on lobbying to gain market access to India and other countries. This, coupled with the SP and BSP’s ongoing row over quota in promotions for SCs/STs paralysed both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.

"We have learnt about the reported disclosure by Walmart on amounts spent by them on lobbying in various countries, including India. The government views this with utmost concern and has no hesitation in ordering an enquiry ....," parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said in Lok Sabha.

Meanwhile, the Congress strongly refuted charges that the UPA government acted under intense lobbying by US.

But government sources suggested that it may prefer a judicial probe over a JPC, which is time-consuming.

In Lok Sabha, BJP's Yashwant Sinha demanded that the probe must be concluded within 60 days. He also pointed out that due to "gross financial irregularities" Walmart had suspended its Chief Financial Officer in India.

The government’s offer to probe comes as a part of its efforts to salvage the remaining period of the ongoing winter session where several key bills are stuck.

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