FDI in retail will make more Muslims jobless
Dr. Ashwani Mahajan
UPA -II government has been making all out efforts to allow FDI in Multi Brand Retail for the last so many years. FDI in multi-brand retail means allowing Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour, etc., to open their stores in India.
In our country, there are many political parties, who while indulging in communal politics, boast that they are the greatest supporters of Muslim interests. Their uneasiness was most apparent at the removal Babri structure. They are the greatest advocates of scholarships, priority in education and different other types of helps and transfers to Muslims and thus so they try to prove themselves as the greatest Messiahs of the Muslim cause. Against all the democratic norms, even our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh once said that Muslims ‘have the first right over national resources’. Even after being reprimanded by courts at different levels, these so-called secular leaders keep on trying to play the Muslim card by demanding/introducing reservation for Muslims on the lines of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
When the debate was going on in the parliament on whether to withdraw or allow FDI in multi-brand retail, these political leaders were being fully exposed before the nation, that how far they are Muslim supporters. These leaders conceded that FDI is not in national interest, as it would cause large scale unemployment, however if they go against FDI, Bhartiya Janata Party, which they term as ‘communal’ party, will benefit and ‘communal’ forces will be strengthened. This logically implies that according to them support of FDI is actually support of secularism. It is significant that left parties who also consider BJP as a ‘communal’, party voted against FDI.
Whereas there are 48 political parties with representatives in the parliament, national leadership of only 3 political parties, namely Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and National Conference, is supporting FDI clearly, though there are internal dissention, within these parties too. All other parties have been opposing this FDI in multi-brand retail. Samajwadi Party, even supported the Bharat Bandh organised against FDI. Its supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav even declared that he would be the first man to put Walmart store on fire, if the same is allowed to open. It is highly unfortunate that the same party has now allowed passage of the resolution in support of FDI, by staging a ‘walkout’ in the parliament.
FDI is Anti-Muslim
Retail trade is conducted in India in different styles. We find big stores with area of 1000 to 5000 square feet and on the other hand there are shops with even 10 feet area or even with no defined area of their own, as trade is conducted on rehri, patri and khomcha and tehbazari ( weekly markets). In this trade run on rehri, patri khomcha and tehbazari, poor people are engaged in large number. These marginalised sections include dalits, muslims, women and other poor. In our country, there are vast inequalities, not only in terms of incomes and wealth, but also in terms of educational levels. According to Census 2011, even today 18 percent of males and 34.5 percent females are illiterate. Even those who are literate are very less educated. Generally, we find that a less educated person is easily employable in this kind of self-employment in retail trade. According to Sachar Committee, in comparison with other sections, Muslims are less privileged in educational attainment and thus are poor. Same thing applies to Dalits.
We find that most of the vegetable and fruit sellers come from Muslims or Dalits. Similarly rehri, patri, khomcha, tehbazari and small shops are run by these comunities. This fact was also underlined by Sachar Committee report, which says that 17 per cent of working population in Muslims is engaged in retail and wholesale trade, whereas this percentage is 10 in case of other minorities. It is significant that only 8 percent of Hindu population is engaged in retail and wholesale trade.
Other sufferer of FDI in retail would be workers engaged in manufacturing sector. International studies show that stores of these multinational retail giants generally sell items manufactured in China. For instance, Walmart is the biggest importer of goods from china. This means, if Walmart’s stores are opened in the country, Chinese goods would be sold in these stores and not India’s. Although government says that, it has imposed the condition of procuring at least 30 percent goods from MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises); that condition has been diluted deliberately. According to the latest notification from the government, now these stores would be allowed not to procure anything from MSME for the first few years, as they have been allowed to calculate this procurement as an average for 5 years. Further there is no audit or check that whether these stores actually procure MSME products or not, because they would be ‘certifying themselves’ for the same. We can very well understand the plight of Indian industry, especially small industries, whose order books would go dry with these stores monopolising the Indian retail scene. It is no secret that Muslim workers dominate Indian manufacturing sector. According to Sachar Committee, 21 percent of Muslim working population is engaged in manufacturing. Similarly, dalits would be next victims of FDI in retail. Most of our artisans come from dalits and Muslim communities. Weavers, potters, blacksmiths and many other types of artisans are likely to lose their livelihood by advent of multinational retail giants.
However, in the era of globalisation in the last more than 20 years, self employed sector has been the worst hit, their condition has been worst in the last one decade. Report of the 66th Round of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), says that between 2004-05 and 2009-10 self employment declined by 2.5 crores, whereas casual labour increased by 2.2 crore in the same period. That is, those who were earlier engaged in self-employment, and were owners of their enterprise, may it be agriculture, small shops or a service enterprise, have now joined the army casual labour, who are not only low paid, have no continuous work with them and are at the mercy of the job market. FDI coming into retail sector in India would cause large-scale closure of retail shops; manufacturing units, especially small enterprises; small service enterprises; etc. Small entrepreneurs in transport sector, farmers, artisans and labour engaged in all these segments would also go out of their traditional occupations and they will join this army of casual labour. They may be deprived of even their two meals. Though impact may be felt on almost all sections of population, Muslims and dalits would be worst affected. Under these circumstances, Mulayam Singh who is generally seen siding with Muslims and Mayawati who claims to be the Messiah of Dalits will be answerable to their constituencies. Perhaps they may not be able to provide any answer; the nation will have to pay through its nose for the historical mistake of these ill-sighted politicians.
(The author is Associate Professor, PGDAV College, University of Delhi and can be contacted at email: ashwanimahajan@ rediffmail.com)