Citu wants retail bar, CPM curbs

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Calcutta
  • Published 28.05.07
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Calcutta, May 28: Citu will follow a “uniform policy” in opposing the unbridled entry of “corporate players” in retail, whether in Bengal or elsewhere, its president M.K. Pandhe said today.

Reliance’s proposed farm products retailing business in the state and Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s lease of the Park Circus market to the company after it won the revamp bid have raised the hackles of sections of the Left Front as well as the CPM.

“Our policy will be uniform. It is wrong to assume that a separate policy will be followed in Bengal. Malls and big bazaars are mushrooming everywhere and FDI is making a backdoor entry in retail through a nexus with Indian play- ers. The Centre must regulate it. The livelihood of four crore people, including small traders, is at stake,’’ said Pandhe, also a CPM politburo member.

However, seated next to Pandhe, Citu national secretariat member and CPM MP Tapan Sen made it clear that “it is not legally possible to stop corporate groups from buying land to set up malls’’.

Reliance is buying land in the districts “with the help of government-run corporations” and planning to set up its own retail outlets and super markets in CMC-run markets after “redeveloping” them.

CPM patriarch Jyoti Basu and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee see no wrong in this, but have ruled out a joint venture with Reliance in farm retail following opposition within the party.

The party and its labour arm Citu now want the Centre to regulate malls and big bazaars by locating them away from city centres and restricting their floor areas.

According to the CPM, Reliance’s role in the Park Circus market now is that of a “redeveloper”, not retailer.

At a news conference on the sidelines of the Citu general council meeting, Pandhe admitted differences among Left outfits on retail and special economic zones.

Asked about the CPM partners’ opposition to SEZs in Bengal in the wake of the land acquisition row, he pointed out that all Left parties had supported the SEZ act in Parliament but “turned wiser after realising the dangers of corporate zamindari”.

Unlike the allies, the CPM does not want to throw away the child with the bathwater and is insisting on a better deal for farmers, he added.

The Citu leader, who stressed the need for industry yesterday saying unions would be redundant otherwise, today said: “The state has to facilitate private investment for industrialisation. For that, land is needed. But in Bengal, our focus is equally on social justice.”