Looking at the apprehensions of small retailers that they might become jobless, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and BJP minister Manoranjan Kalia made it categorically clear that Reliance and other big houses are not welcome to retail in Punjab.
However, both Badal and Kalia were non-committal on setting up some legal provision to block their entry into the retail markets.
Commenting on the entry of corporate houses in retail sector, Badal said, “Reliance and other such houses are big traders and, hence, should do big business instead of stealing bread and butter from the hands of small and marginal shopkeepers.”
Badal insisted that big corporate houses should spend at least 10 per cent of their profit on providing good education, health services and drinking water to people. They should make entry into the volunteer service sector. There was so much unemployment, poverty and other problems that could lead to big unrest in the country. “We need to address issues like unemployment and poverty on priority basis,” he added.
On similar lines, Kalia said: “Reliance is welcome to set up industries and other ventures in Punjab, but should avoid entry into the retail sector. Big players like Reliance should not compete with the owner of a small shop in a town in Punjab.”
In August this year, the Akali government had reclaimed Reliance Retail’s land promised by the former Congress CM, Capt. Amarinder Singh, on the ground that a current government simply cannot give Reliance Retail land at rates set by the previous government. So, Reliance will have to buy the land at market rates.
Welcoming Reliance Retail’s Rs 500 crore investments, the previous government, under Singh, had promised to give Reliance Retail 163 acres of land in Goindwal Sahib. The land belongs to the State Industrial Development Corporation, and a nursery and a warehouse was to be set up on this land.
Subsequently, a new government came to power and had other new plans, and Reliance did not get the land as the government now wants to set up an SEZ there.
Badal, at that point of time, had said that his government had no problem with Reliance Retail outlets. But he insists that the party buying the land must pay market prices. And this condition could mean Reliance Retail might never see the promised land.