House meets today, govt to push retail FDI

Govt weighs administrative order option, but can't make up mind; BJP plans protests in and outside House

A day before the Assembly winter session, the Delhi government is intensely deliberating its options to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail and become the first state in the country to do so.

Even as the ruling Congress has agreed to discuss the issue in the Assembly on Tuesday, sources said the government's push for FDI in retail in Delhi might need a longer and harder effort than expected.

Soon after the Union government decided to allow FDI in retail, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has been reiterating her stand to make Delhi the first state to implement it.

However, just before the winter session, Dikshit was weighing options on the route to be followed to usher in FDI in retail in Delhi.

"FDI in retail is a new policy. We want to allow it in Delhi as soon as possible, but we do not want to make any mistake while doing so. We would prefer to take time and implement the policy in a proper way," a senor Delhi government official said.

He said the proposal to allow FDI in retail was on the agenda when the Delhi Cabinet met on Monday. But the discussion was deferred because it has to be deliberated if the policy could be implemented through a notification or an administrative order was required.

The government had maintained that amendments to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act and the Shops and Establishments Act were necessary to implement the new FDI policy.

It said the Central government has prepared a model to help the states prepare before allowing FDI in retail.

Last week, Dikshit said her Cabinet might clear amendments to the Acts and bring them up in the Assembly during the winter session, beginning Tuesday.

Amendments to the APMC Act are necessary to break the monopoly of wholesale markets. This will allow retailers to buy agricultural produce directly from farmers. However, sources said the amendments would require approval from the Union government.

"The proposed amendments are ready, but approval from the Central government is mandatory. The decision to discuss FDI in retail in the Cabinet was postponed because certain clarifications were needed,"a government official said.

The Congress government is bracing for a stormy Assembly session in view of the BJP's anti-FDI stand. The Opposition party, which wants a discussion on FDI in the Assembly, has planned protests in the House and on the streets.

Leader of the Opposition V K Malhotra said the BJP would oppose any move to allow FDI in retail in Delhi. "We are ready for a fight with the Congress. The country doesn't need or want FDI in retail. We will protest inside and outside the Assembly," he said.

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