SHRI DEREK O`BRIEN (WEST BENGAL): Yes, Sir. We have 17 minutes with two speakers. We will manage, Sir.
MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Okay.
SHRI DEREK O`BRIEN: Sir, the Trinamool Congress and its leader Ms. Mamata Banerjee have been the original and unstinting crusaders in the matter of FDI. Other parties have, periodically, jumped on and off the issue and, more recently, some parties, we see, are converting their morning walks into afternoon walks in the Houses of Parliament.
Only the Trinamool Congress has a consistent, principled and steady, committed and a well considered opposition to FDI in multi-brand retail at this stage of India`s development.
SHRI DEREK O`BRIEN (CONTD.): Sir, these are not hollow words. This is a solemn commitment made in our promise to the people. Since our party was instituted in 1998, we have published seven election manifestos and in each one of them we have made this very clear. It is telling that the points and objections that the Trinamool raised in the context of FDI in retail over these many years and months are today being accepted and echoed by parties across the board. We feel vindicated in this regard, and even if a feckless Government chooses to ignore our reasoning and our requests, we are confident in our wisdom. The Land Acquisition (Rehabilitation and Resettlement) Bill that is being drawn up also takes much from the arguments and hard reality that we have been attempting to bring to the forefront since 2006. This will be repeated with FDI in retail, the Congress be warned. The Trinamool is against a policy that sees India only as a market. Our economy cannot be an economy that promotes just consumption and neglects production. Unfortunately, over eight years, the Congress-led minority UPA Government, that has now been reduced to an irresponsible, nonchalant minority, has rejected this idea. The Trinamool is definitely not anti-reform. We reject what the Congress-led minority Government is doing today in the name of reform.
Genuine reform is not about raising FDI limits in this sector or the other. Genuine reform is not about raising diesel prices. Genuine reform is not about putting a cap on LPG cylinders and driving the housewife in Bankura to tears.
What is genuine reform? Genuine reform is about Government giving infrastructure a push. Genuine reform is about coal being used to generate power. Genuine reform is not about coal mines being handed over to political cronies!
Genuine reform is about roads and highways being built. Genuine reform is about modern, labour-friendly factories. Genuine reform is about manufacturing units being encouraged to open in India. Genuine reform is providing jobs. Genuine reform is about being true to the salt of India. What is happening in the name of reforms, Sir, is not genuine reform. We will tell you what is happening. What is happening is deform. This is a deformed Government which has long ceased to perform, a Government that is steeped in corruption, a Government whose credibility has reached an all-time low. So low, Sir, is the credibility of this Government that it seems to act only when prodded or instigated by international opinion. Indian aspirations don`t seem to bother. For this UPA FDI is no more, no less, than `foreign direct instructions`.
Sir, on the 4th of September, 2012, The Washington Post newspaper published an article on the hon. Prime Minister of our country, sitting here today. That article said, `A tragic figure leading a deflated regime`. Ten days later, on the 14th of September, the Government announces its FDI-in-retail misadventure. It took the Government ten days to react. Sir, it took the Trinamool Congress three days to react. By the 17th of September, we had made it clear that we would sacrifice six ministerial positions. We sacrificed our ministerial positions; we will not sacrifice our principles. Today, the Government says, allowing FDI in retail was a considered decision, taken after 10-12 years of debate. Was it 12 years or 10 days in September? Please be honest. I know, you can`t be honest with us. You can`t be honest with the people of India. You can`t be honest with yourselves. So, at least, be honest with The Washington Post, and admit, you only acted when it mocked you; maybe, send its editors a `Thank You` note and that would be honesty.
SHRI DEREK O’BRIEN (CONTD.): Sir, consider the Asian countries with a well-established global retail chain in their economy. Before they open up their markets, Sir, they equip their people to become sustainable stakeholders and build an infrastructure. Before FDI, Sir, there needs to be another ‘I’. But for the Congress-led minority Government, that is not the ‘Infrastructure’ which is the ‘I’, it has always been the personal pronoun ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘myself’. We are told today very often that FDI in retail is needed because Indian companies too are investing abroad. L.N. Mittal has bought Arcelor in France; GVK is buying coal mines in Australia. Do note that all these countries are allowing foreign capital after years and centuries of development. As such, foreign capital is not a threat to domestic economic stakeholders, but complements in matured economy. I will welcome FDI in retail the day Murshidabad silk products have an easy and ready market shops in Melbourne; I will welcome FDI retail the day Channapatnam toys can be sold to children in Calgary or the day the Jaipur foot will find seamless access to orthopaedic clinics in Jamaica. That would be an equal world.
Why, Sir, are we surrendering so easily? Opening up of the retail is the final and logical step of the developmentalprocess. The UPA Congress-led minority Government has made it the first step. It is almost like a property developer who has started decorating the drawing room without building the foundations of the building. Sir, there are several misperceptions and even myths about the benefits of FDI in retail. It is claimed that FDI in retail, and some of my colleagues have also raised that, will create shorter and efficient supply chain due to contract farming which will help agriculturists. The point is, Sir, in the West there is a monopsony situation. Retail giants control the entire supply chain. We are told that FDI in retail will eliminate the middlemen from agriculture, from farm to fork, as it were.
Sir, we have done a study of our retail chain. They don’t eliminate middlemen; they bring in their own middlemen. Each big retail chain buys from the farmer. That retail chain has an assessor, a processor, a scrutinizer, etc., and thanks to this Government we will learn these new nouns and will suffer with this new breed of middlemen in times to come. The Congress once spoke of import substitution; nowadays the Congress speaks of importing and substitution. There is a clause, Sir, which the Commerce Minister has been touting, I heard in the Lok Sabha yesterday, to source 30 per cent of manufactured goods from SMEs or small industrial units. There is a clause there. This is a strange and a bizarre clause, obviously written by someone who has little understanding how big retail operates. The point we make is, in Indonesia, in China, in South Korea, in Vietnam, big retail chains source their goods from these SMEs and then grow these SMEs into customized suppliers often incapable of in terms of legal provisions, of product lines to do business with alternative buyers. The question we ask is: What will happen when these companies grow too beyond SME? They will be dumped and their work will be penalized for no fault of their own. All the companies will be used to use fraudulent methods and officially divide their operations into smaller operations and then an inspector will come, visit and seek a bribe. In the name of reforms, we are actually reinventing the Licence Permit Raj. In conclusion, this is an astonishingly bad idea. But what else can be expected from a Government of ‘deform’ — ready to sell India not to the highest but to the lowest bidder. In country after country, Mexico, Philippines, South Korea, Argentina, Vietnam, the implication of FDI in retail being permitted has seen a depreciation in local currency, a surge in imports, the BoP worsens, crime rates increase. We, in Trinamool, fear that this could happen to India. This country is not yet ready for FDI in multi-brand retail. Much more than what is needed, the Government needs to be sensitive to HDI.
SHRI DEREK O`BRIEN (CONTD.): I am concluding, Sir. I said, `Not FDI but HDI (Human Development Index).` When a Government brushes aside HDI and embraces only FDI, Sir, it breaks a fundamental contract with the people. It becomes a burden on the people. This is what has happened. It is not just the opening up to the FDI in retail; it is actually selling India wholesale.
This Government needs to spare us this agony. This Government needs to go. India deserves better. Thank you, Sir.