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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 50, December 3, 2011

Union Government Exposes Itself

Editorial

Friday 9 December 2011, by SC

Parliament’s winter session, which began on November 22, has failed to transact any business till date. At present the deadlock in both the Houses is due to the Union Government’s obdurate stand on opening the retail sector to foreign direct investment (FDI)—51 per cent in multi-brand, 100 per cent in single brand. This has not only faced stiff resistance from the entire Opposition but also from UPA allies like the Trinamul and DMK as well as from within the Congress itself, and the ruling UDF in Kerala in particular. All-party meetings as also the Congress’ core group meetings have failed to break the impasse.

While the PM asserts that the Cabinet decision on this score will benefit the country and bring down prices while containing inflation, the Opposition, UPA allies and even Congress members (as in Kerala) are highlighting the plight that would befall countless small retail traders before the onslaught of the foreign retail giants.

And now the news has come that the US State Department has unequivocally welcomed the decision to allow FDI in the multi-brand retail sector saying such economic reforms will further strengthen business-to-business ties between the two countries. The US business organisations have been urging the Government of India to open up this sector for FDI obviously for their own benefit. Quite naturally the question arises: whose interests is the Union Government seeking to protect? The US business-men’s or the small retail traders’?

Meanwhile the killing of Kishenji, the high-ranking Maoist leader, in West Bengal’s Junglemahal area has caused considerable consternation among human rights activists and the charge of ‘cold blooded murder’ is being openly levelled as the State and Central governments dismiss the allegation while circulating the theory of a genuine encounter that brought about his gruesome end. CM Mamata Banerjee has responded to the charge with a lengthy diatribe against the Maoists some of her ’disclosures’ do not stand close scrutiny. Yet what cannot be denied is the Maoists’ gradual loss of grassroot support in Junglemahal. Whether this is a consequence of Mamata’s development package in that area only time will tell. But as of now beyond the resumed operations by the joint forces some sort of political negotiations is urgently called for in the interest of the local tribals who are likely to become victims of collateral damage.

In the regional sphere the NATO forces’ deliberate violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty in the name of targeting terrorists has been decried, if not conde-mned, by several states including China and Russia. However, the eloquent silence of the Government of India has only helped to strengthen the suspicion of New Delhi’s subservience to the US. In the interest of South Asian solidarity it should have at least criticised the NATO act but it chose to remain quiet and thus reveal its pro-US proclivity beyond any shadow of doubt. It is time for South Block (and its mentors in Washington) to realise that the global war on terror cannot succeed by transgressing the national sovereignty of any country regardless of the latter’s policies toward other states (including one’s own).

December 1 S.C.

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