Praveen Lakra had put up road blockade and observed fast when Reliance’s Fresh chain of stores that sell branded products including vegetables and fruits were set up in this state.He had vandalized one of its stores in Ranchi over five years ago.
Himself a vendor who sold vegetables and fruits from a mobile thela,Lakra had feared that Reliance will threaten the livelihood of millions of small sellers like him.The protesters were led by politicians who cut across the party lines.This was in 2007.
Five years later,a day after the UPA government allowed 51 percent Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) in multi- brand retail,triggering outrage among some of its allies including the Trinamool and the Samajwadi Party as well as the Left parties,BJP and traders across the country,Lakra is not ready to back their agitation.
“I was fooled by some politicians.They had told us that our business will be ruined once the Reliance super market comes up.Nothing of that sort has happened.While Relaince thrived,I continued to earn by selling fruits”,said Lakra,who was booked by the police on charge of vandalizing the Relaince store near Lalpur in Jharkhand’s capital.
Predictably,therefore,Lakra is happy that the business of the vendors like him and that of the Relaince’s Fresh stores grew side by side without causing any harm to any of them.Ranjit Mahato,a farmer,who sold and supplied vegetables to Reliance,echoed Lakra’s sentiments.
“We have benifitted a great deal from the Relaince Fresh stores.In the past,the middlemen paid us far less than what we get from the Reliance”,smiles Mahato who is among a dozen farmers the jharkhandstatenews.com talked to elicit their reaction on the Centre’s move.
Most of them sounded critical of politicians who were opposing the FDI in retail.”They are telling us that once foreign companies will come with branded materials,our products will have no takers.We know they had found a new agenda to remain in the news.We are not going to support them”,said Mahato echoing the sentiments of many farmers.
While these farmers who were attached with Reliance Fresh welcomed the UPA’s move,the Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industry has opposed it and is gearing up to launch protest against it.”By taking this step,the Centre has paved the way for giant retailers like the Wal-Mart to gain foothold in the country.In the long run,it will cause unemployment problem and rob the farmers”,said FJCCI’s president Ranjit Tibrewal.
The state government led by BJP leader and chief minister Arjun Munda has decided not to take any stand on the FDI in the retail in Jharkhand.Said Munda:’We will wait and watch on this issue and do what was in the interest of the state and its people.’