Here's why RSS-affiliate SJM wants food minister Harsimrat Badal sacked
Last February at the Make in India Summit, Union Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal had raised the issue of allowing foreign food retailers to sell other items that were previously restricted, and had said she would discuss the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A little more than a year later, on 7 March, RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM) has issued a statement objecting Kaur’s view and demanding that she be sacked for making such “an irresponsible statement”.
The SJM, the trade arm of the RSS, has long opposed the expansion of items under FDI especially in food processing and security services.
The latest statement says that foreign direct investment (FDI) in food and non-food products under the multi-brand retail policy will be detrimental to the domestic industry.
“At the time when FDI was passed it was political compulsion and not political consensus that led to it. Now after the BJP has come to power, there is no need to follow through. Now, other than the Congress and a few small parties, there is no political consensus that FDA would be beneficial,” Ashwani Mahajan, the national co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch, told Catch.
Badal had informed the media that she sent a proposal to the Union Cabinet and is expecting an approval by November.
Currently, 51% FDI on multi-brand retail is allowed with the restriction that only food products manufactured in India could be sold here.
Last year the government had allowed 100% FDI in food retailing, but had dropped plans to include products like shampoos and soaps, in the policy. However, retailers have been pushing for allowing these items to come under the policy.
Harsimrat Kaur had, in the 2016 Budget, supported FDI in food and non-food products under the multi-brand retail policy, which was accepted by the Finance Minister.
“This was opposed tooth and nail across the country. We had a talk with the government then, and they had informed that we will not bring FDI in food products, security services and brownfield investments in pharma sector,” Mahajan told Catch.
The government did make these exceptions when it brought out the legislation. Mahajan is upset that Kaur brought this up out of the blue.
For him, the concern is that the government cannot only think of investments from abroad. “It was an irresponsible statement from the minister and therefore we believe the Prime Minister should take action.”
“Even the Prime Minister took notice of the matter and said that this would result in the youth becoming sales boys and sales girls,” Mahajan says. “When the Prime Minister doesn’t want this, why would this be even brought up?”
Mahajan is also skeptical of the predatory pricing that would be introduced by foreign companies, which could kill the domestic market and make traditional shopkeepers jobless.
The SJM had also protested against field trial of genetically modified (GM) crops and the new policy on intellectual property rights (IPRs). It plans to hold its annual meeting of its national council on 21 and 22 May.