Unorganised sector workers, street vendors, and people from all walks of life under the banner of CPI(ML) burnt the effigy of Manmohan Singh at Jantar Mantar in protest against the Government’s decision to allow 51% FDI in multi-brand retail. The protestors held placards asking, “When New York can show red light to Walmart, why red carpet for Walmart in India?”; “No to Assault of MNCs on India’s Retail Sector!” and “Shame on Manmohan Singh – Agent of MNCs.” A protest meeting was held, which was addressed by activists.
Addressing the protest, Kavita Krishnan, Central Committee member, CPI(ML), said, “The US envoy has said that the fears that FDI in retail will destroy kirana shops, are misplaced. Can he tell us, then, why the people of New York City have been refusing entry to the US MNC Walmart? If Americans themselves say Walmart will destroy family-run stores and kill jobs, why should we welcome the same destructive Walmart into India? Why is the Government bypassing Parliament and claiming that the decision on FDI in retail needs no Parliamentary debate or approval?”
She said, “How can family-run shops and street vendors in India survive, in competition with the giant MNCs, which can afford to sell at a cheap rate? The Govt. must withdraw this move that will destroy the livelihood of the crores of poor people who eke out survival in the retail sector.”
Santosh Rai, AICCTU’s Delhi General Secretary said, “The Govt. claims FDI in retail will create one crore jobs. How many jobs will it destroy? In India, there are around 1.2 crore shops, employing 4 crore people. 97% of these are small, self-employed establishments. Moreover, what kind of jobs will it bring? Corporate and MNC retail chains are notorious the world over for the worst paid and most exploitative jobs, disallowing unionisation.”
Sanjay Sharma, Delhi State Secretary, CPI(ML), expressed the party’s support for the countrywide traders’ bandh called on 1 December against FDI in retail, saying that such an anti-people move that is being supported only by corporate and MNC lobbies and imperialist powers, and is opposed by the vast majority of Indian people must never be allowed. Delhi CPIML leader Surendra Panchal also spoke in the meeting.
Kisan Sansad at Parliament street
Hundreds of famers from all over the country gathered at Parliament Street today to hold a ‘Farmers’ Parliament’ (Kisan Sansad) on policy issues affecting farmers, including the Land Acquisition Bill and FDI in retail. The Kisan Sansad, organized by the All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM), was attended by farmers from UP, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, Jharkhand, Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Assam, Odisha and several other states.
Introducing the Kisan Sansad, Rajaram Singh, General Secretary of AIKM, said, “Parliament and Government are pushing through Bills and policies affecting farmers – without even consulting the farmers themselves. This is why we farmers are holding a Farmers’ Parliament – to assert farmers’ own views on laws and policies affecting them.”
The Kisan Sansad was presided by Ruldu Singh, President, AIKM, AIKM Vice Presidents Kartick Pal, Prem Singh Gehlawat, Devendra Singh Chauhan, Rajaram, as well as CPI(ML) CC Member and former Jharkhand MLA Bahadur Oraon.
The assembled farmers debated resolutions on the LARR Bill and the FDI in retail policy. The Kisan Sansad adopted a resolution demanding withdrawal of the UPA Government’s LARR Bill, declaring it to be a blueprint for land grab. Instead they demanded measures to protect agricultural, forest and costal land from land grab.
Addressing the Kisan Sansad, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said, “Land grab threatens not only the survival of farmers but also the country’s food security and environment. The LARR Bill’s provision allowing acquisition of up to 5 percent of multi-crop irrigated area in a district will jeopardize food security. The Government must withdraw the anti-farmer LARR Bill, and instead enact protection for agricultural, forest and costal land in the interests of food security and environment.” He continued, “Land reform laws mandate that government lands be redistributed among the landless. Violating this principle, the LARR Bill paves the way to hand these over to corporates!” He concluded, “The UPA Govt is trying to hand over India’s agriculture and retailing to MNCs and corporates – but the farmers are holding their own Parliament, and tell the Government and Parliament that they will not allow anti-farmer policies to be pushed through.”
The Kisan Sansad also adopted a resolution condemning the Government’s unilateral decision allowing 51% FDI in multi-brand retail. Rajaram Singh, AIKM General Secretary, said, “The PM is claiming that this measure will benefit farmers. In reality, the experience all over the world has shown that giant MNC retail chains tend to source produce mainly from very large farmers and contract farms. Small farmers inevitably lose out, because they cannot match the arbitrary quality standards of these chains. The MNC retailers also arm-twist farmers into selling cheap. Procurement by MNCs will reduce Government procurement, and will mainly divert the produce towards food processing – jeopardizing food security.” FDI in retail will threaten not only small retailers in India, but also small farmers, agriculture and food security, famers felt.
The Kisan Sansad also passed resolutions demanding withdrawal of the anti-farmer Seed Bill. They also demanded the release of activists Afroz Alam of CPI(ML) in Uttar Pradesh and Abhay Sahoo, the anti-POSCO leader from Odisha, who have been jailed while leading struggles of rural poor and peasantry.
The Kisan Sansad was also addressed by senior journalist Kuldeep Nayyar, Swapan Mukherjee, General Secretary of AICCTU and several others.
The resolutions passed were submitted to the Lok Sabha Speaker as well as MPs of all parties, demanding that Parliament heed the opinions of the Kisan Sansad.