by vasanthmysoremath on Dec 19, 2011      Category: Food & Water Tags: india health food commerce consumerism investment adulteration poor people MNCs
Consequent to heated debate, the Government of India's proposal to allow Foreign Direct Investment in the retail sector has been kept on hold. It envisages creation of millions of jobs, proposes payout of fair prices to farmers for their produces, commerce will increase, supply of better products, etc., etc. The expected inflow of huge investment would, no doubt, result in a windfall to the existing MNC retail players and would-be-investors would vie with each other for tie up or participation with existing/established consumer chain outlets. This hunky dory scenario has a flip side - millions of small grocery shops will loose their business and livelihood. This controversial proposal has resulted in a logjam in the Parliament and it has become a battle ground between the ruling party and the opposition.
With regard to establishment of MNC retail shops in food articles, an analysis of the existing system needs to be looked into. In India, about 85 per cent of kirana (grocery) shops are indulging in marketing of adulterated food items. The worst hit people are those who cannot afford to buy food items in bulk quantity – even one kilogram of cereals that have become very costly. Various factors have caused food inflation and rise in cost of living; percentage of adulteration of food articles is increasing by the day. One billion people are enduring all kinds of health problems/inconveniences due to consumption of adulterated food items. Even some well known glitzy malls/departmental stores are found selling such items since people assume that they are ensuring and selling good quality packed items. Every businessman involved in the retail sector of food items appears to be indulging in such unfair trade practice since authorities concerned have failed in exercising necessary checks and balances in containing the rampant illegal multi-crore business that is being dubbed as the mother of all scams; there are no official statistics to prove that perpetrators are punished or booked under relevant acts or rules. Awareness among the people about their right to claim compensations due to consumption of adulterated food articles is at the lowest level and consumer activism is almost non-existent in the food sector.
These questions need answers; will FDI retail investment in food ensure qualitative and quantitative supply of unadulterated food items to aam aadmi, will there be penal clauses for failures/unfair trade practices, will such retail shops be governed by the existing Indian consumers protection laws? Are there any rehabilitation programmes for the vulnerable kirana shop owners who may loose their livelihood? If the answers to these are yes, can the people of India say 'aye' to this much debated issue?
Mysore Grahakara Parishath
Heritage City of Mysore
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