Patna, Dec. 1: Residents of the state capital, who worried that their regular activities would be affected today because of the daylong strike called by All India Federation of Traders, were pleasantly relieved. Most of the retail shops opened to conduct business.
Wholesale shops, however, preferred to remain closed and supported the strike to protest against the decision of the Centre to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector.
Though the ruling NDA had extended its support to the strike, offices, government schools and colleges were also open. Only a few private education institutions preferred not to conduct classes.
R-Block resident Shiv Kumar said: “Last night, some of my friends told me that all the shop would be closed today. I was really scared, as I wanted to buy my monthly grocery. But, I am happy that nothing is closed. Everything is going on as usual. I cannot even feel that there is a bandh today.”
Most of the shops and groceries on Boring Canal Road, Rajabazaar, Exhibition Road and other residential areas did business as usual. Many of them felt that FDI would not affect them at all.
Sasta Rai, a sweet shop owner at Rajabazaar said: “What will I get if I close my shop in the support of the bandh? Will it increase my profit? Will the supporters of the bandh pay the salary of my employees. There is no reason to get angry over an issue, which has not yet affected my business. I am not an educated man but I know one thing that I am not supposed to close my shop just because someone calls a bandh.”
Ram Nath Shah, a grocer at Patna Junction, said: “We conducted business as usual. We are sure the government would not introduce FDI at the cost of our existence. I don’t think that the foreign companies will poke their noses into the retail market. They are more interested in super markets.”
Some shop owners, however, expressed their opposition to FDI but kept their outlets open anyway. Brahm Prakash, the owner of a cosmetic shop on Boring Canal Road, told The Telegraph: “We are opposed to FDI in retail. But we have kept our shop open because FDI is yet to be implemented in the state.”
Not everyone agreed with the retailers, though.
Their counterparts in the wholesale markets of the city suspended all business today in support of the strike. Wholesale outlets at Maroofganj, arguable the largest kirana market in Asia, and Mansurganj — remained closed. So did Maharajganj, the food grain market, and Govind Mitra mart the medicine bazaar. Shop owners at Bazaar Samiti, who supply fruit and vegetables to the city, also followed suit.
The president of the Bihar Chamber of Commerce, O.P. Shah said the state’s mandis had suffered a loss of over Rs 100 crore today.
“But we are happy as today’s bandh has given a clear message to the Centre. The state’s traders were opposed to FDI in retail and agriculture. They supported the state government’s opposition to the Centre’s move, which is fraught with danger as it can ruin the existence of indigenous retailers,” he added.
Anant Arora, a shop owner in Maroofganj and also the general secretary of Rambagh Vastra Vyawsai Sangh said: “We are completely against the central government’s move to introduce FDI in retail. The foreign companies may offer lollypop at the outset will exploit the small traders and people eventually. They might even sell their products at relatively cheaper rate initially to ruin us and then establish their monopoly”.
Asked about the open retail shops in the capital, Shah said: “In Delhi, Sarojini Market, which caters to the residents remained open, while Sadar Bazaar and Karol Bagh were closed. It does not mean much as far as the impact of the bandh is concerned. What matters is the strong opposition from the main mandis that cater to the retailers. Wholesalers run the risk of losing the market to the FDI-engineered monopoly groups.”
The representative of the traders, however, also said the small grocers and street vendors had not been properly “educated” about FDI. He added that they had not carried out a campaign on the streets through loudspeakers to forcibly enforce the strike either.