While Parliament remains paralysed on the issue of FDI in retail, attempts by the Centre some time back to reach out to stakeholders, particularly state governments, for a consensus on the contentious matter yielded mixed results. However, in a morale booster of sorts, out of 21 state governments with which Union Minister of Commerce Anand Sharma interacted, 11 supported the FDI policy, three were ambivalent while seven, all of them ruled by non-UPA parties, opposed it.
According to data, chief secretaries of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, both BJP-ruled states, didn’t outrightly reject the policy but only questioned it.
Sharma also wrote to the chief ministers of many states, highlighting that in view of reservation expressed by some states, the Centre’s FDI policy had left the decision of whether to allow FDI in retail or not on the states. “...the FDI policy cleared by the Cabinet will be an overarching enabling policy framework and the state governments will be free to take appropriate decision on its implementation,” the letter sent to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar reads.
The letters also lay out the benefits of FDI in retail as well as make efforts to respond to the concerns of the opposition parties and some UPA allies about the negative impact that FDI in retail could have on the unorganised retail sector in the country.
While Sharma wrote to the chief ministers, Saurabh Chandra, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), wrote to state chief secretaries, informing them that before the decision on allowing FDI in retail was taken, the government “analysed” the comments received from various stakeholders, including farmers’ associations, industry bodies, consumers forums, etc.