Sir — The menace of Kali Puja subscription has forced operators from outside West Bengal to stop transporting goods during this period. But what about transporters in West Bengal? We have a small manufacturing unit in Domjur. One of our vehicles was recently held up by some people who demanded a hefty subscription. When the driver refused, he was severely beaten up.The police helped shift the injured man to a hospital. Is it possible to do legitimate business in West Bengal without having to confront this kind of extortion?
Ajoy Kumar Chakraborty, Calcutta
Sir — There is a valid reason for traders and wholesalers, who are a part of the supply chain in India, to be afraid of foreign direct investment. The pro-FDI lobby in India is trying to win the debate by arguing that farmers stand to gain in the process. What it is not saying is that a number of traders are likely to lose their livelihoods as well.
In the United States of America, an individual can shut one business down and start another seamlessly. This is not the case in India. FDI in retail would have been beneficial had India been a land of opportunities where one could open and run a business with ease. A recent ranking of countries released by the United Nations reportedly showed that India fares poorly on this count. One might argue that the UN ranking is more applicable to small and medium scale industrialists than to middle-class traders. But it is true that entrepreneurs find it difficult to do business in most parts of the country on account of corruption, high investments, competition, and so on.
FDI in retail will make the supply chain very efficient. One of the ways it will achieve this is by doing away with middlemen. The collateral damage of this reform will be heavy as the supply chain is dotted with numerous middlemen/ancillaries who survive on low incomes. Hopefully, efforts to boost macroeconomic figures would not adversely affect wealth distribution any further.
However, if a commitment has been made to investors and companies, FDI should be introduced in retail. But the impediments that throttle business ventures should be tackled at the earliest.
The other point to be emphasized in this context is that India not only needs servicemen and investors but also entrepreneurs — Mumbai’s dabbawallas, for instance — to create things that Indians can be proud of.
Soumik Karmakar, Missouri, US
Sir — The decision by the Odisha government to make it mandatory for all government employees — from bureaucrats to peons — to wear dresses made of handloom every Friday is certainly welcome (“Dress fiat, peon to babu”, Nov 5). This step would encourage the handloom industry in the state. There was a time when Odisha was reputed to be a provider of some of the finest calicoes, muslins and tussar to markets in Southeast Asia and Europe. In those days, the handloom industry employed a large number of people. But the situation has changed for the worse because of the industrial revolution, discriminatory colonial trade policies and changing taste. Not much was done to revive the handloom industry after Independence. If the order is implemented properly, it will help skilled artisans survive. The state government should also make it mandatory for schools to use this material for uniforms.
Lalatendu Das Mohapatra, Bhubaneswar