December 1st, 2011
12:21 PM GMT
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New Delhi, India (CNN) – Traders shuttered shops and markets through India Thursday to protest the federal announcement to open the country's $450 billion retail market to foreign competition.

The move came as lawmakers opposed to the plan paralyzed the national parliament for yet another day.

"Our strike shows how angry indigenous traders are," said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which led slogan-shouting demonstrations in New Delhi.

He said the arrival of global supermarkets would eliminate millions of small businesses. "This number (of small traders) is 200 million and they are dependent on 50 million establishments across the country. Because of these multinationals, these people will have to sell out their jobs. If not now, maybe five to 10 years later," Khandelwal said.

In the Indian capital, major wholesale and retail markets stayed closed as part of the CAIT's call for the day long, nationwide shutdown. Unlike big marketplaces, many residential neighborhood shops remained opened as usual in the city ruled by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress party.

Traders held sit-ins and street protests across the country, demanding reversal of the government's decision to free up the country's long-protected retail sector.

The strikes are piling pressure on Singh's administration to backtrack on its latest liberalization program. So far, it has refused to budge.

Uproar by lawmakers from opposition parties as well as from within Singh's coalition government has led to a stalemate in parliament, which is sitting for its winter session.

The impasse has also been stalling key legislative business, including the passage of an anti-corruption bill. No political consensus until now has emerged to end the deadlock over the retail reform.

Singh has defended the retail reform decision, calling it “well considered.”

His government says the move will help curb inflation. Further, the country’s commerce ministry forecasts an increase of 1.5 million front line jobs over the next five years, with the additional back office jobs pushing that number up to 1.7 million.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the nation's top business lobby, hailed the move toward foreign investment in retail as a "360-degree advantage" for the country.

But Singh faces ongoing resistance. Few regions in a country of 1.2 billion consumers have been supportive of the government's new retail policy.

And the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which is also in power in several states, is demanding an immediate reversal of the regulation.

Thursday's shutdown was more pronounced in provinces governed by groupings opposed to retail liberalization. It was partial in states run by Congress.

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soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Jim

    It is ok for them to completely dominate the corner shops and low level retail business in the west but no one is allowed to do so in their country. Selfish greedy parasites

    December 1, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  2. Sean

    You cannot go into a 711, Tesco, corner shop without seeing these curry body odour smelling parasites but no one can do retail business in their country.

    December 1, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  3. Oneworld

    Most Indians are for FDI in retail. Strikes are common in any part of the world -doesn't show the mindset of the overall population.

    I am waiting for the technology capability of large corporations to bring in efficieny and professionalism in Indian retail supply chain.. This would help a number of farmers here to get the right price and consumers here to gets it more affordable

    December 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  4. PC

    Fellas, this is how we function. There will be a lot of hue and cry but in the end the retail sector will be opened up. Its difficult to please everyone in a country of 1.2 billion with multi party democracy. Look at US, they cant even get a stupid spending cut bill passed after so long. India's vociferous democracy functions like this. Always have, always will

    December 1, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  5. VeselataKurabiika

    Well instead of living on other people's buying and selling they might finally go out there and find a job that brings something to their impoverished country.

    Oneworld, i seriously doubt that farmers are going to get the right price – the bargaining power of big corporations is crushing and without strong government regulations they are definitely not getting a fair price.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  6. Oneworld

    @VeselataKurabiika – Farmers are already getting better prices from Carrefour,metro cash and carry shops(these were allowed few years back). Its easy to implement regulations and controls over few large corporations compared to 20 million middle men. Indeed as you rightly put it this would also add more man power to meaningful productive work as well.

    Example of regulation : In a corner shop in India you get a plastic carry bag free with your purchase but in hyper mall you need to pay to get it. This was a welcome move by our government to reduce the consumption of plastic bags and was impossible to implement it across the board but work fine in large retail chains.

    December 1, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  7. Big Bush

    Let them strike all they want. The consumers can now go to Walmart to get a better deal.

    December 1, 2011 at 9:10 pm |

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