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Token resolution in FDI posturing

Calcutta, Sept. 27: The Mamata Banerjee government today passed a resolution in the Assembly asking the Centre to stop domestic and foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, roll back the hike in diesel prices and revoke the LPG subsidy slash.

It also asked the Centre to stop the entry of multinational companies in the farm product and consumer goods businesses.

The resolution will have no impact on domestic investment in multi-brand retail in Bengal as a new legislation will have to be introduced and the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act amended, a senior Trinamul leader said. The state can invoke the Shops and Establishments Act to stop such domestic investment or cancel licences but it has to furnish valid reasons that can stand the test of law.

Industries and parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee said the government was merely recording its protest in the Assembly. “It is not directed against any specific company or business group. We have merely recorded our political stand in the Assembly and will send it to the Centre. Our aim is to protect the interests of retail trade.”

Trinamul sources said the resolution would help the chief minister send a message to the common people that she remains committed in her opposition to FDI in multi-brand retail and claim for herself the space the Left has been occupying for all these years.

“On October 1, she will be in Delhi for a dharna. The resolution passed in the House will reaffirm her political stand,” a senior Trinamul leader said. “It will also send the message that as far as this issue is concerned, she is more committed than the CPM.”

The Congress MLAs voted against the resolution while the Left legislators walked out after the amendments they sought to introduce were rejected.

In 2007, Trinamul, then in the Opposition, had moved a similar resolution in the Assembly against domestic and foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. The resolution was defeated on the floor of the House as the CPM had objected to the inclusion of domestic investment in the resolution.

Former Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim said resolutions such as today’s were a mark of protest by state governments. “It is a form of protest against the Centre that will now be registered in the Assembly’s records. Nothing is going to come out of it,” he said.

The Left MLAs walked out after the Speaker refused to allow two of the four amendments that they had moved. The Left wanted the “impact of neo-liberal economic policies and imperialism” to be included in the resolution. Other demands like supplying 35kg rice at Rs 2 per kg to families with a monthly income below Rs 10,000 and restoring government control on prices of diesel and petrol were also struck down.

Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra said that had the amendments been included, the Left would have supported the resolution.

After the Left walkout, Mamata said: “We have quarrelled with them (Congress), that does not mean we will be friendly with you (CPM).”