|Sometimes Parliamentary debates can make you roll over and go to sleep. But the one in the winter session had everyone's attention, primarily because it involved the big ticket superstores of the world. Would the likes of Walmart, JCPenny, Carrefour and some other giants be allowed in India by injecting up to 51 per cent equity in Indian firms?
The debates in Parliament took a turn for the worse when the main Opposition party, the BJP, decided that it was not going to negotiate with the Government on the issue at all—it was not prepared to allow 51 per cent FDI in the multi-brand retail segment. The House was adjourned regularly, but what took the wind out of the Government’s sails was the opposition it faced from one of its major allies, the Trinamool Congress. The party boss and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee decided that it was not going to support the Government, of which her political party is a part, if it came down to voting.
What at first appeared to be a foregone conclusion (allowing FDI in the retail), became a full-blown, contentious issue within a matter of minutes. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who claimed that his Government had thoroughly thought out the issue before bringing it before Parliament was taken by surprise at the very powerful opposition to the subject. Clearly, there were Indians who felt that by allowing majority stake to foreign players, Indian small businesses, and mom-and-pop stores would eventually be wiped out. And that would indeed be a body blow for enterprise at the grassroots. We take a look at this vexed issue in our cover story.
Elsewhere, we have focused on the British children’s charity Wings of Hope which works very hard with school students in England to raise funds that are eventually directed towards helping impoverished children in India and Africa. We believe that the charity founded by London-based Dr R Sri Ram and Mrs Rajni Sriram has a very innovative and educative approach towards philanthropy.
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