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Central watch on retail boom

Siliguri, May 27: An 11-member parliamentary team concluded a two-day visit to this growing trade hub today as part of a study on the impact of domestic and foreign retail investment on small, neighbourhood shops.

The members visited shopping malls and department stores in town, including Cosmos and Sunflower on Sevoke Road, and Vishal Megamart on Burdwan Road, said Siliguri additional district magistrate Paritosh Roy, who accompanied them.

“The objective of the study is to find out the effect of departmental stores set up through direct foreign investment and the growing breed of domestic retailers, like Reliance Retail or Pantaloons Retail India Ltd, on small vendors. We asked questions to customers and employees at the department stores,” said a member of the team, requesting anonymity.

The team also spoke to representatives of vendors’ associations based in Siliguri to assess if their sales had fallen. “If the study finds that it has, even by 30 per cent, the government may have to reconsider its policies,” the member said.

The team led by Keshava Rao, the chairman of the parliamentary standing sub-committee on commerce, has two Rajya Sabha MPs — S. Patle (Maharashtra) and C.K. Chandrappa (Kerala).

The other members are officials from the ministries of commerce and consumer affairs.

The parliamentary sub-committee has already toured several cities like Indore, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore to find out the ground realities there. This team will be going to Guwahati, Shillong and Calcutta, the member said.

The MPs did not want to be quoted before the committee submits its report to Parliament. But the member did refer to a survey and recommendations made by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, which had studied the impact of a growing number of modern retailers on the unorganised sectors, from small shopkeepers to farmers.

The Centre had asked the council to conduct the study in early 2007.

“We are responding to apprehensions, demands and grievances of the parties concerned in the retail sector, who have been complaining that they are being displaced by the flood of branded stores,” said the member.

The team is expected to wrap up its study across 10 states by visiting retailers in New Delhi next month.

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