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Debate over FDI in retail, Durban talks are linked

delhi Updated: Dec 04, 2011 23:14 IST
Bharti Chaturvedi
Bharti Chaturvedi
Hindustan Times

The FDI issue is being fiercely debated at the same time that the climate change talks are going on in Durban. How are these connected?

New retail brands will sell fruit, vegetables and foods, which we eat anyway. But their formats are far from green.

They are likely to be air-conditioned in a country where 48% of the population doesn’t have electricity.

There is inevitably more packaging than in the existing, small vegetable kiosks. Pre-packaging and bagging each item is routine in large retail stores globally. Why will it be different here. But do Indians need four apples packed in Styrofoam and cling wrap? Is this our sustainable future?

Frankly, large retail stores are unlikely to be sustainable entities—look at them, from Brazil to Paris.

Our government should enable the middle-classes and the rich to enjoy better basic infrastructure, cleaner air and water, but not work to intensify their consumption. It should enable the poor to consume the basic minimum-nutritious meals, fans in the heat and sanitation, for instance.

The FDI policy will make us greater consumers, but less ecologically-sustainable. Given India’s stance on being vulnerable to climate change, we have to align our internal policies with global rhetoric.

Dow should spend to clean up poisons

Bhopal is in the air, again. The December 3 was the 27th anniversary of the gas leak. This column has frequently written about and for the victims, but this year, the question of accountability becomes even more important, now that Dow may sponsor the Olympics. Instead of sponsoring the games, why doesn’t Dow simply spend the money to clean up the poisons?

And if Union Carbide had owed upto its misdeeds and cleaned up back then, would other companies in India continued to be polluting the way they are? Could they have afforded it?

As India further opens up its markets, it has to put into place very stringent laws for all companies, holding them accountable for the environmental damage they might cause through processes or products. The tragedy of Bhopal teaches us at least this.

Tata Tea’s Anthem of apathy
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