Punjab may welcome retail FDI if Centre protects traders: Sukhbir

FP

Punjab's Akali Dal government may have agreed to toe the NDA line and oppose FDI in multi-brand retail but Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal Tuesday said the state could do an about-turn and welcome the move if the Centre builds a consensus and addresses the fears of farmers and small traders.

"Our opposition is to the way the reform has been forced upon the country by the UPA. If the Centre had not acted as a dictator, we may have welcomed FDI in retail," said Badal junior, who has supported the change in the past and had, in fact, written to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma in 2011 welcoming FDI in retail.

"I did write to the Centre welcoming FDI. But the government of India should have taken all stakeholders into confidence. The Prime Minister cannot announce a reform just because Wal-Mart wants it," Badal told The Indian Express. "The decision affects livelihoods of lakhs of small traders who fear they will be wiped out. It is a democratic country and apprehensions of farmers and traders should have been addressed. They should have been provided a cushion. This is not the way to usher in reforms."

Asked if Punjab would allow FDI in multi-brand retail as the Centre's decision last week to open the doors to 51 per cent FDI in the sector left it to the discretion of states, Badal said the state did not have the power to amend the terms and conditions of the process set by the Centre if it wanted to do so to protect the interests of small traders and farmers.

"I cannot comment on the future. At the moment we are opposed to it. But if the Centre agrees to address the fears of stakeholders and provide a sense of security to them, then maybe we will change our stand," he said.

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