More than 1000 people including cadres of left parties CPI, CPI-M, trade union members including CITU, AITUC, Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam(Farmers Union), Koyambedu Loading/Unloading Workers Union, Tamil Nadu Chefs and Cooks Union, AIDWA, SFI and DYFI picketed at the head quarters of Bharti Walmart office in Chennai on Wednesday 26.12.2012. They demanded that the ADMK Government close backdoor entry of the Walmart into Tamil Nadu. The protesters also demanded that FDI in retail should not be allowed anywhere in India.
There are more than 4.5 crore people working in 1.5 crore small trades in India benefiting 20 crore people directly or indirectly. By allowing FDI in retail, the Government is allowing these traders to compete directly with MNCs such as Walmart, CarreFore and Tesco. “When Government allowed soft drink giants Coca-Cola, Pepsi to enter soft drink market, they said that the local manufacturers will not be affected. Yet after 20 years, there are no local manufacturers” said Comrade Thiyagarajan, National Vice President of AITUC. “Today, for a significant section, small trade is the fall back where this no guaranteed employment in the jobless growth. What will be the impact of such a policy on these people?”asked Kotiswari, State Committee Member of AIDWA.
According to the protesters, Walmart in a tie up with Bharti is constructing a cold food storage unit in an estimated 1 lakh square feet space at Pallikuppam near Thiruverkadu. It is also setting up a head office in Anna Nagar for marketing purpose. Bharti Walmart representatives have already approached small vendors to register and avail wholesale materials at low prices. Temporary cards have been given to registered vendors and a permanent card with photos are being provided at the marketing office. “By capturing the wholesale market, Walmart will essentially control and squeeze out the small traders. Also the source of raw materials for small street vendors is also in question” states Kotiswari.
The Government has promoted that direct purchase of raw materials by the companies from farmers will result in reduction of prices for consumers. According to the protestors, Walmart in US pays Rs 77 for 1 liter of milk but sells at Rs 176. Whereas local Tamil Nadu Government Corporation Aavin pays Rs 22
for 1 liter of milk to dairy producers and sells at Rs 32. This belies the reduction of prices(For a comparative study on prices in provisional stores vs retail chains, click here) . S.S.Thyagarajan says that “Farmers will be eventually affected by this policy of direct purchase from Walmart”. Comrade T.Pandian, State Secretary of CPI said that “If companies such as Walmart bring in Rs1000 crore as investment, they take out Rs 10000 at profit. This kind of exploitation should not be allowed in any sector”.
Speaking at the protest, CITU State Secretary and Member of State Legislative Assembly A. Soundararajan said that “The State Government has denied FDI in retail sector at the state. However, companies such as Walmart are trying backdoor entry through whole sale purchases. We have come to know that huge warehouses are being constructed in Tamil Nadu. We demand that the State deny such measures by MNC retail companies. By bringing Walmart in, traders will be affected and so will employment. The labour conditions of Walmart worldwide has been dubious”.
Citing the recent charges of 125 crore rupees bribery scandal by Walmart in India, Soundararajan said that “Corporates are the fountainhead of corruption. The Rs 125 crore is the tip of the iceberg”. CPI(M) State Secretary Ramakrishnan and MLA Balakrishnan also participated in the strike.
The protesters marched from Anna Nagar West Bus Depot to the WalMart office in Anna Nagar. Crossing the barricades and cordons of Police protecting the office, the protesters picketed and pelted stones at the office causing minor damages. More than 1000 protesters were arrested and released in the evening following the picketing.