In a signal that India's retail trade sector may not be opened any further, the government on Wednesday said the interests of small traders will be protected as the industry is the second largest employer after agriculture.
"The government is fully committed to securing the legitimate interests of all stakeholders engaged in the retail business," said Minister of State for Commerce Jyotiraditya Scindia.
"The government also fully recognises the need to ensure that small retailers are not adversely affected by the growing organised retail and that there is no adverse effect on employment," Scindia said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, the lower house.
In his reply, the minister also enclosed a study by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (Icrier), which says the country's retail trade industry will grow 10 percent per annum from $10 billion in 2006-07 to $496 billion in 2011-12.
It said the organised retail trade segment of the industry, which presently stands at just 4 percent, will grow at a much faster pace of 45-50 percent, to grab a 16-percent share of the market by 2011-12.
The study, however, made a pitch for opening up of retail trade sector, saying there was no evidence of a decline in overall employment in the unorganised sector as a result of the entry of large companies into the business.
The study also said farmers stood to benefit "significantly" by selling directly to organised retailers.
"Profit realisation for farmers selling directly to organised retailers is about 60 percent higher than that received from selling in the mandi (wholesale market)," the Icrier report said.