View from the Left

Published : Jul 13, 2007 00:00 IST

Most of the political opposition to the opening up of the retail sector has focussed on whether Wal-Mart and other multinationals ought to be allowed to operate in the retail sector. The Left parties, which had consistently opposed the United Progressive Alliance's vacillation on the issue, were the first to highlight the fact that with the entry of Indian big business the situation had assumed a qualitatively new dimension.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) released a set of proposals on May 30 inviting a discussion on the issue. While releasing the proposals, the general secretary of the party, Prakash Karat, made it clear that these "proposals" did not reflect the final position of the party since "this was a new area".

The key aspects of the proposals include a provision for licensing of the retail trade. Licences issued by local authorities to players above a certain threshold (defined in terms of floor space) would ensure that no single player corners a significant share of the trade in a given geographical space. The number of licences issued to large retailers would also be restricted. The proposals envisage a limit on the number of large-format retailers in a city, State or region. Moreover, the local bodies entrusted with the task of issuing licences should have representation of small traders and street vendors so that their interests are protected. Although these proposals might appear shocking to market fundamentalists, it would appear reasonable to Western audiences who have experienced Wal-Mart.

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