"Sat Sri Akal, Sir ji," said someone from behind, as I walked past my tangerine orchard. To my surprise, it was none other than Common Singh, whom I had not seen since the last few months. "Sir ji, berry good orange," he said. "Looks like you will reap a very good harvest. New barieties?" he asked, unsure about both his questions.
"Yes, Common Singh. I will be harvesting the crop late November."
"So, where will you market it?" he inquired.
"Commission agent obviously," I replied, a bit surprised by his question.
"By the way, if the Punjab government allowed FDI, don't you think you would have fetched a better price?" he asked, sounding concerned if I was making the right move of sending it to a commission agent.
"It would have been great, and opened new marketing channels for farmers as well as set the ball rolling for creation of new agri retail infrastructure. But you know na that Punjab government sees FDI as nothing but Fazool Direct Investment.
"You mean it is Fazool Di Investment," Sir ji.
"Yes, Common Singh. One hundred million dollars, or 560 crore rupees, is absolutely fazool. After all, what is 100 million dollars - the compulsory investment in infrastructure? Money is haath di dhool. High thinking, simple living is Punjab sarkar's motto, you see." But Sir, Badal saab is only following the line toed by BJP, its partner.
"Yes, and the BJP feels that the small trader will be ruined if Foreign Direct Investment in multi brand retail was to come to India. Swadeshi, is the issue."
"Oh Sir ji, you are not patriotic enough. What they mean is, it is better to be looted by the Swadeshi than the Gora.
However, jokes apart Sir ji, isn't organised retail already in India? Easy Day and Reliance Fresh to name a few. What difference does it make if the Gora has 49% or 51%? And Sir ji, what is wrong in changing the present retail model, which has been thriving on exploitation of the farmer, spurious products, faulty scales and tax chori?"
"You are an informed man, Common Singh," I said, surprised over his GK. "Political parties have continuously resisted reforms in retail at the cost of the consumer and the exchequer. And, have you heard about McDonalds, the place where you get Amreekan aloo tikki.
I am told it pays more VAT than many Punjab restaurants and eateries put together."
"And Sir ji, one more thing," said Common Singh, interrupting me. "I had to return a new pressure cooker which just wouldn't whistle, and the shopkeeper wouldn't take it back. Common Kaur has threatened to plonk it on my head, if I did not replace it with a one that whistled. My nephew from USA was telling that the stores there have a very good return policy. You can return anything within a month.
"And Sir ji, is it also true that Kakaji in private approves of the Fazool di Investment?"
"I have read so, but then Kakaji is an exemplary son. He listens to dad, who has vast experience in politics of votes," I replied.
"But Sir ji, isn't it time for politics of progress?"
"Common Singh, if such was to happen then from where would you get your cheap atta dal? You have to remain poor to avail of the sop. Common Kaur will beat the hell out of you if she hears you talk about progress and all, I said trying to warn him of the consequences of imagining progress in Punjab.
"Sir ji, no mazaak please. But how can one FDI change our lives? And Badal saab says that FDI will not benefit apney farmers as big stores will source the produce from other countries.
No one will buy your oranges, Sir ji. FDI is exploitation," said Common Singh, his fear of the unknown suddenly taking over.
"Oh! Common Singh.
This is one regulation which Punjab government can regulate on its own. No centre da vitkara. It's about how smartly and diligently you frame your policy. "
"FDI to me is a step towards building a positive economic environment. And heck, this is one climate change Punjab can do well with.
The columnist writes "Punjabi by nature" column every fortnight. He can be reached @firstname.lastname@example.org.