Brushing aside opposition’s allegations that the government did not hold consultations on FDI in multi-brand retail, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma described in Lok Sabha on Wednesday how the Centre reached out to various stakeholders.
While elaborating how the FDI policy will help farmers and consumers, Sharma reminded the opposition that the government promised to build consensus and not unanimity — which can never be achieved in this issue.
Initiating the debate in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj alleged that despite giving assurance to both Houses that it would consult all stakeholders, the government brought the FDI policy keeping them in dark.
Sharma said the government held meetings with 12 farmer organisations, 17 consumer forums and six food processing bodies: “I personally met chief ministers like Prakash Singh Badal, Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik and Mamata Banerjee. Altogether, 21 states sent their responses on FDI and 11 states supported it,” he said.
Sharma also clarified that Congress was opposed to FDI in retail during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime as the then government held no consultations.
Both Sharma and heavy industries minister Praful Patel emphasised that Indian companies are also investing abroad and even after entry of the international food chains, Indian food companies are expanding.
Patel, however, struck a discordant note and said in Maharashtra, the NCP-Congress coordination committee will decide on the entry of foreign retail chains. "If we see that the policy is not implemented properly, we may change our stand,” he said.
Patel's comments came in the wake of human resource development minister Kapil Sibal's assertion on Tuesday that Maharashtra government is keen to open retail chains.
Drawing a parallel, Patel argued that just as there is opposition to FDI in retail in India, there are protests against Indian software firms in the US. "Does it mean we should also stop software export to other countries?”