More than 20,000 traders, farmers and shopkeepers today marched through the streets of Mumbai, to protest entry of retail giants like Wal-Mart fearing loss of livelihood.
Farmers wearing traditional long white shirts and white caps marched through the streets of this metropolis waving posters with slogans like “It’s now or never. Wal-Mart quit India.”
“This is a do or die battle for us. Either they go or the small traders and farmers perish,” said Dharmendra Kumar, director of India FDI Watch, spearheading the campaign against private retail in India.
Past demonstrations had failed to attract large numbers but retail opponents have managed to force Reliance Industries, India’s biggest listed company, to lay off 1,000 staff and close stores in Uttar Pradesh.
Reliance Retail, plans to invest more than $5.5 billion in its venture.
With the prospects of a midterm poll to Lok Sabha looming large, many retailers feel these protests could have serious repercussions on their business as they apprehend that politicians could well lend their support to the anti-retail groups for the sake of political expediency.
“Earlier, there were protests from only a few organisations, but now some states are proposing to ban modern retail, and that is a very serious issue,” said Gibson Vedamani, head of Retailers Association of India, which represents 200 local and foreign firms.
Those against private retail say 40 million jobs will be lost, against the 2 million that modern retail promises to create.
“They have government support, financial muscle. It is like they are boxing with gloves and we are being asked to fight bare-handed without any protection,” said Sharadkumar Maru, head of a grain merchants’ association.
Organised under the two-year-old National Movement for Retail Democracy or NMRD, the protestors are demanding that big corporations quit the retail business.
– Mumbai Bureau