“The FDI policy is distinct and different and has the Indian signature,” Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said.
The interest and sensitivities of small retailers have been taken into consideration and “they are part of the policy embrace”, he said when asked whether the government would take steps to allay fears over the measure, which has drawn sharp reactions from the political parties and retailers.
Sharma said the political parties would “certainly realise” the benefits of the government’s bold move, and added that such opposition was common.
The minister said the government has not rushed the FDI policy and it took one year and 10 days before it reached a committee of secretaries, after intense consultations with states, retailers, industries and farm associations and other stake-holders.
The government came under a sharp attack inside and outside Parliament over its decision to open the multi-brand retail to foreign investment. The criticism came not only from the Opposition but also from Trinamool Congress, a key UPA ally at the Centre.
Sharma insisted that the decision on FDI was not an “overnight policy” and said no policy rollout would be without opposition and criticism. He added that a sincere effort had been put in to take on board concerns of all stakeholders.
Claiming that the decision would help farmers and consumers alike, he said peasants were not getting remunerative price for their produce.
The policy envisages to bring down post-harvest losses and aims to create better rural infrastructure like cold storages, Sharma said.
This was an “enabling policy”, wherein the state government can take a call on its implementation and he said states such as Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra had welcomed it and expressed the hope that other states, including those in the South, are favourable towards it.
In respect of proposals involving more than 51 per cent, 30 per cent of the sourcing would have to be done from village and cottage industries as well as small and medium enterprises, so as to benefit this sector, he said.
Holding that only 53 Indian cities with a population of 10 lakh and over would attract FDI proposals by virtue of the policy provisions, he assured that small retailers would not only coexist with big players, but also grow by 13 per cent in the coming years.
Further, every investor had to work with Indian people and within the ambit of the “strong Indian laws, including labour laws”, Sharma assured adding that corner stores would be protected.
No one can sell products at “predatory prices”, he said.
Sharma expressed confidence that the FDI policy will result in “billions of dollars of investment”, but declined to “speculate” on a specific figure.
On consensus in the Cabinet over the FDI policy, he declined to respond to media reports but said there would be “discussions and debate”.
Asked about Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s criticism of the policy, Sharma initially refused to comment, wanting not be drawn into a “political slugfest”, but added after being asked repeatedly that her “downfall and doom are near as the state is suffering from corruption and maladministration”.
The decision on FDI in retail has come close on the heels of another major policy roll-out, the National Manufacturing Policy, which envisaged increasing the manufacturing sector’s share in the GDP from 16 per cent to 25 per cent in 10 years and create 100 million jobs, Sharma said.
It was the manufacturing sector where job-creation held maximum importance as other sectors like agriculture had their limits, he said.
On the proposed National Manufacturing and Investment Zones (NIMZ), he said seven nodes along the Mumbai-Delhi highway had been identified and declared as NIMZ.