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The UPA’s decision to allow FDI in retail compounds the flaws in its economic policy

The UPA’s decision to allow FDI in retail compounds the flaws in its economic policy

There are several issues of importance that the general public is concerned about that are not being tackled by the government. For the last three years,there has been a lack of governance in the country. The country has also been in a state of impairment due to the many alleged scams and cases of corruption that have been unearthed. That is why the government is faced with so many demonstrations against corruption and has to deal with public servants virtually not working because of its lack of decisiveness,which has resulted in a slowdown in GDP growth. The UPA has brought down the country’s GDP growth to 5.5 per cent,and to compound that the government has decided to allow foreign direct investment in multibrand retail,which is against the interests of the Indian people. The country is going through a bad phase in part due to the incompetence of the people at the helm. In my view,a government elected by the people should serve the country for a full five years,but the way this government has demonstrated its lack of concern for the poor and is alleged to be involved in so many scams,the day is not far when it may have to go.

We are followers of Ram Manohar Lohia and Charan Singh and our ideology and actions are based on their thinking. FDI in multibrand retail would hurt kirana shops and small vendors in our country. This is not the same Congress party as in the past,until the time of Rajiv Gandhi. Even Sonia Gandhi does not seem to care about the poor,as she has maintained her silence about the measures her government is taking — measures that will have an adverse impact on 25 crore people. We will come out on the streets against the government’s move to bring FDI in multibrand retail and continue to fight against the decision. The market share of unorganised retail in the country is 97 per cent of the total retail sector,as compared to the organised retail sector,which accounts for only 2-3 per cent. The unorganised sector contributes about 14 per cent to the GDP and absorbs a large part of our labour force. If FDI is allowed in multibrand retail,those affected will primarily be traditional kirana shops,general merchants,paan beedi shops,etc. Worst affected will be the small vendors — women carrying small items over their heads and others selling items on roadside pavements.

The government should instead concentrate on increasing agricultural growth to 4 per cent per year and allocate its natural resources,like minerals and metals,at the best prices. The Indian economy is supposed to be based on agriculture,but now agriculture is growing only at 2.25-2.5 per cent per year. India is endowed with several natural resources,including many metallic and non-metallic minerals. The mining sector is an important segment of the Indian economy and contributes around 2.26 per cent to the GDP. Since Independence,there has been a pronounced growth in the production of minerals and metals in terms of value and quantity. The country produces as many as 87 minerals. The total value of mineral production (excluding atomic minerals) has been estimated at more than Rs 2.02 lakh crore. The estimated value for fuel minerals accounts for around Rs 1.40 lakh crore,metallic minerals at around Rs 41,828 crore and non-metallic minerals,including minor minerals,at around Rs 23,537 crore. However,in my view,the minerals should have been valued at more than Rs 8-10 lakh crore had these been sold at best prices. This is important because it shows that the government can and should utilise these resources fully in order to bring down the fiscal deficit.

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Now take the subsidy on diesel,which is to the extent of Rs 84,000 crore out of a total subsidy of Rs 1.60 lakh crore on petroleum products. On one hand,the government has failed to increase agricultural production and properly allocate its natural resources. On the other hand,it has put a burden on the exchequer by subsiding diesel for mall owners,big buildings,cell towers,car owners,etc. Why can’t the government,in this era of computerisation,properly target the subsidy towards needy consumers,such as farmers and transporters of essential commodities? It is necessary for the government to put in place a mechanism to properly target beneficiaries,so that the expenditure is rationalised.

Besides such impractical government policies,some corporate houses are also reported to be involved in various corruption cases. For instance,it has been alleged that Naveen Jindal,a business owner and Congress MP,got preferential allotment of coal blocks for his companies. The nexus between big business and government is getting stronger,with many businessmen joining politics primarily,it seems,to serve their own interests. The government should come out with a white paper on the wealth of selected top 150 or so big corporate houses for the periods between 1991-96 and 2004 to present. I have decided,in the next session of Parliament,to demand that the government place on record the wealth,turnover and businesses of the top 150 businessmen from 1991 onwards for the edification of the general public.

This government has destroyed the economy of the country by making bad decisions and becoming embroiled in many cases of alleged corruption,due to which,I am sure,the Congress party will face diminished public support in future.

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The writer is a Lok Sabha MP, president,JD(U) and NDA convenor

First published on: 11-10-2012 at 02:31 IST
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