Delhi has become the first state to withdraw permission for FDI in the retail sector.
The Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government has informed the Centre that it will not allow multinational companies to set up multi-brand retail stores in the Capital, overturning former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s decision on the issue.
In a letter to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has asked the Centre to strike off Delhi from the list of states which have agreed to allow FDI in setting up big supermarket chains.
A senior official confirmed that the DIPP has received the Delhi government’s letter and “is looking into the issue.”
Fifty-one per cent FDI in multi-brand retail has been Congress’s top agenda as it trumpeted the UPA’s economic reforms.
However, both the AAP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been vocal against the FDI in multi-brand retail, stating it will lead to closure of small grocery stores in neighbourhoods and result in job losses.
While the newly-elected BJP government in Rajasthan is likely to review the FDI policy, Kejriwal’s AAP government in Delhi went ahead in killing the policy, staying committed to the promises in party’s election manifesto.
While justifying the decision on Monday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that though his government reversed the decision on allowing FDI in Delhi, the AAP is not opposed to FDI per se.
“It was part of our commitment in the manifesto (for the Delhi polls). We are not against FDI per se. This is something that ought to be decided on sector-to-sector basis,” he told reporters.
‘THE AAP IS A CALL CENTRE GOVERNMENT’
Stepping up the offensive against the AAP dispensation in Delhi, the Congress, which supports from outside, on Monday termed it as a government of call centre and helpline and accused Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of doing nothing to help the common man.
Senior Delhi Congress leader Mukesh Sharma also attacked Kejriwal for holding a janta darbar on Saturday which had to be called off following chaos.
Referring to the launch of separate helplines for registering complaints relating to power cuts, corruption and nursery admission, he said it has become a government of call centre and helpline.
“This government came to power in the name of serving the people and has now deviated from its professed objective. The janta darbar drama was enacted to get publicity…,” said Sharma.
The Chief Minister said that though allowing FDI in multi-brand retail will improve consumer choice to a great extent, experience the world over showed that it leads to a significant loss of jobs.
There is huge unemployment in Delhi and the AAP government does not wish to increase unemployment, he said.
Last year, the Congress-led UPA government had approved the proposal to permit 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, but had left the decision to the states on whether they wanted to implement the policy or not.
As many as 12 states, including those that were then ruled by Congress, decided to implement the FDI policy.
Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are among the Congress-ruled states which have allowed FDI in multi-brand retail.
But states ruled by opposition parties, especially the BJP, decided not to implement the decision.
Now, with the Congress losing Rajasthan, there is uncertainty as the BJP government may scrap the FDI policy.
The DIPP, therefore, is keeping its fingers crossed, an official said.
And it’s not just FDI that Kejriwal scrapped on Monday. His much-touted janta darbar – AAP’s version of ‘direct democracy’ – also got scrapped following the utter chaos that was witnessed during the first one on Saturday in front of the Secretariat.
The Chief Minister said there would be no such public meets and the government will open new channels where people can report their grievances online, via post and through calls.
We are making a system through which people can report their grievances online.
“We will also set up a call centre. All those who cannot write to us can call on up the call Centre and their grievances will be noted down. They can also send us their complaints via post and we will also set up a ‘help box’ at the Secretariat. It will start in two to three days,” he added.
On Saturday, Kejriwal had to leave the janta darbar within 15 minutes as thousands had gathered there.
The CM had to be rescued by policemen from the road outside the Secretariat.
Finally, he ended up on the roof of the Secretariat to try and pacify the crowd.
Bhushan faces another protest
Within a week of facing violent protests outside the office of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Kaushambi over the comments made by party leader Prashant Bhushan on Jammu and Kashmir, a press conference by Bhushan was on Monday again disrupted by a person belonging to a right-wing outfit.
The man, identified as Vishnu Gupta, disrupted the press conference that was being held at the Indian Women’s Press Corps to announce the decision of Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in supporting the party.
Bhushan and a representative of the Narmada Bachao Andolan were addressing media when Gupta barged in and started shouting slogans against the noted lawyer.
Gupta called him a traitor for his recent comments regarding holding a referendum to decide on the Army’s presence in Kashmir.
Gupta, who claims to be the president of Hindu Sena, a right-wing outfit, also distributed pamphlets and said the AAP is an agent of the CIA and is also spreading Maoism.
“They are agents of the CIA and spreading Maoism,” said Gupta.
The pamphlet was a letter addressed to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The group alleges that Bhushan has ensured that Hindu Raksha Dal’s Pinky Choudhary, who allegedly led a violent protest at the AAP’s Kaushambi office last week, stayed in jail and didn’t get bail.
The pamphlet also asked the AAP to withdraw charges against Choudhary.
“If your intentions are honest then you should withdraw the charges against Pinky Choudhary and the 12 others. We accept your request for a debate on the issue but on the condition that it should take place in the presence of the public and media…,” the letter stated.
Indirectly blaming the Congress and BJP for the incident, Bhushan said: “Such incidents show the desperation and culture of big parties like BJP and Congress.”
Bhushan last week said deployment of military in J&K should be done with the consent of people of the state. His comment was slammed by parties across the political divide. Bhushan later retracted his remark.
Kejriwal launches nursery helpline
Within a week of launching an anti-corruption hotline, the Delhi government on Monday launched a nursery admission helpline number for parents in the Capital.
Asserting that the helpline will ensure every parent’s grievance reaches the government, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said: “Transparency is a pre-requisite for removing irregularities in the system.
“I urge all parents to call the helpline if they face any problems and we will try to solve it in three working days,” Kejriwal said while launching a web application www.edudel.nic, through which information regarding schools in the Capital will be available.
Parents can register their grievances related to the nursery admission process on the helpline number 011-2735 2525.
“Schools are not for making money. They are charitable societies whose motive should not be to earn profits. Why are Delhi schools resistant to being transparent?
“If they have any grievances with the system, they should approach us and we will find a solution,” said Kejriwal.
Education Minister Manish Sisodia said that he will personally ensure that the grievances of parents are solved within three days.
“I will take daily reports from helpline officials. I will also call 10 random numbers from the list of parents who have registered with a grievance. I will ask them if their problem was solved or not,” Sisodia said.
He added that the web application will allow parents to find nearby schools and check the availability of seats and fee structures.
“You can go to website and click on the map of your area. Then you will be shown a list of all the schools in your area from where you can get all information about the school,” said Sisodia.
Patkar extends support to AAP
Social activist Medha Patkar on Monday gave mixed signals on joining the Aam Aadmi Party. Patkar held a press conference along with Mayank Gandhi, who is a member of the National Executive in Mumbai, where she said she supports the AAP and would also be associated with it.
However, she said the decision on whether to officially join the party has not been made yet.
“The process of agitating for the people is very important and so from today we will support the AAP completely. We will be involved in all the process of the AAP,” said Patkar.
The social activist said the picture would be clearer on January 16 and 17 when the top leadership of the AAP would hold discussions with Patkar. Even if she doesn’t formally join the party, Patkar’s support would boost the AAP.
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