News coverage of the Govt reply to Dharmendra Kumar’s RTI in Economic Times, नव भारत टाइम्स and enrackr

1. https://entrackr.com/…/dipps-rti-no-information-on-e-comme…/

2. how many marketplaces are there in the country, dipp does not know, देश में कितने मार्केटप्लेस हैं, DIPP को नहीं मालूम मूवी रिव्यू : डिपार्टमेंट ऑफ इंडस्ट्रियल पॉलिसी ऐंड प्रमोशन (डीआ…

– Navbharat Times https://navbharattimes.indiatimes.com/…/movie…/64874541.cms… … via @NavbharatTimes

3. Has no info on firms running e-comm sites in India, says DIPP in a RTI reply #ETRetail

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FDI in Retail: Implication for Livelihood

On 21st June, 2018 India FDI Watch and National Hawker Federation jointly organized a meeting at Press Club, Mumbai on the topic “FDI in Retail: Implication for Livelihood”Speakers Include Mr. Mohan Gurnani, President, Chamber of Maharashtra Industry and Trade, Mr. Afsar Jafri of Focus on the Global South, Mr. Dharmendra Kumar of India FDI Watch and Mr. Kishore Khariwal, National Secretary, Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal.

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WALMART-FLIPKART DEAL: CONTINUING ATTACK ON RETAILERS, PRODUCERS, FARMERS & LABOUR, AND ON INDIA’S DIGITAL SOVEREIGNTY

Public Statement

May 28th, 2018

WALMART-FLIPKART DEAL: CONTINUING ATTACK ON RETAILERS, PRODUCERS, FARMERS & LABOUR, AND ON INDIA’S DIGITAL SOVEREIGNTY

The US based Multinational Corporation (MNC) Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart undermines India’s economic and digital sovereignty and the livelihood of millions in India. If the $ 16 billion deal goes through, two US companies (the other being Amazon) will dominate India’s e-retail sector. They will also own India’s key consumer and other economic data, making them our digital overlords, joining the ranks of Google and Facebook.

The acquisition of the largest e-commerce firm promoted by Indian entrepreneurs is the latest step in a series of developments aimed at circumventing the existing cap on FDI in multi-brand retail by permitting foreign-owned online retail in India, and developing a digital stranglehold by foreign companies over India’s consumer goods value chains.

This process saw the gradual take-over of majority stake in the formerly Indian-owned Flipkart, the entry of the world’s largest e-retailer Amazon, and now the take-over of Flipkart by Walmart. Jack Ma, head of China’s Alibaba, says all e-commerce companies now have integrated online and offline strategies, consolidating operations towards one ‘new retail’. This is also evidenced by recent moves in the US by Walmart to enter e-retail and by Amazon to move into brick-and-mortar retail. It should therefore be clear to everyone that allowing FDI in e-retail in India is but a back-door entry of foreign players into multi-brand retail. Ironically, the same political party, which a decade ago strongly opposed the entry of Walmart into India, is now happy to welcome its far more powerful, digitally-enabled avatar.

India’s domestic digital retail industry will of course suffer by the domination of these two US MNCs. But worst affected will be small brick-and-mortar retail stores accounting for over 90% of the Indian retail sector,  SME manufacturers, small delivery companies and suppliers of goods including farmers whose margins will be ruthlessly squeezed, with their behaviour digitally-controlled. Walmart is well-known for its global supply chain, especially of cheap goods from China, which means local manufacturers and suppliers will suffer deep hits.

This is similar to what would happen with FDI in brick-and-mortar multi-brand retail. It will, in fact, be worse, as digitally-enabled ‘new retail’ becomes omnipresent and omnipotent. The concentration of economic power with the two US MNCs, now constituting a potential duopoly in India, will render them too powerful to be meaningfully regulated. In the US, the trail of destruction of small stores, local businesses, small manufacturers and countless workers left behind by Walmart and other giant retailers is well documented, and the EU has also witnessed the same. ‘New retail’ seeks to own and control key data of all trading activity across sectors resulting in unassailable power. National policy or regulatory remits over them would then be as ineffective as they currently are over Google or Facebook.  Manufacturers, suppliers and traders, producers and service providers, all become enslaved to digitally controlled platforms, working as per their parameters, but denied any rights or benefits. In this context, it is critical that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) examine the issue of monopolistic trade practices vis-a-vis this deal.

It is argued that Walmart and other retail giants will generate employment, but of what kind? Walmart has a long history of busting trade unions, violating the right to collective bargaining, paying poverty wages and disregarding social security laws. In e-commerce, work will also be outsourced to couriers and other service providers, making it a long stretch to prove that they are workers. Further, even if Walmart and Amazon employ a few thousand more, they are unlikely to neutralise the massive employment loss associated with the collapse of both the formal and informal retail sector. In this business model, whether in retail or in so-called ‘aggregators’ such as Uber, the giant corporations provide temporary benefits to consumers, and hence appearing to be on their side, by squeezing everybody in between including small producers and the vast majority of workers in the supply chain.

Digitalisation will soon be central to a wide range of economic activities, many of these being controlled by MNCs. A sovereign nation must be able to regulate e-commerce companies, making them comply with policies that uphold public interest, and ensuring that all economic actors get their fair share. This will be next to impossible with giant corporations operating from abroad and storing all their data overseas. There is an urgent need to reverse the entry of foreign e-commerce companies and their take-over of Indian entities, and to evolve effective regulations to govern the operations of domestic entities and protect the interests of the different players involved.

Digital companies such as Google and Facebook frequently refuse government or court orders for content take-down  asserting that their data, algorithms and platforms operate from the US, and are subject to the latter’s laws. It will not be very different for data and Artificial Intelligence powering e-commerce platforms. This is what makes it extremely difficult to nationally regulate global digital companies, including e-commerce ones, and the reason that digital platforms in key sectors, including on-line retail, should be domestically owned.

After trailing behind India in software technologies till a decade back, China is now a global leader in digital technologies. China has been able to leverage its growing software capability because it has incubated domestically-owned digital e-commerce systems such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, which also store their data locally.

The Government is seemingly blind to, or does not care about, the extra-ordinary dangers that the country would face if India’s e-commerce ecosystems are foreign-owned and controlled. Not just China, but the US and EU have also begun to disallow foreign takeovers of digital companies considered of strategic or economic importance. If the growing tendency of foreign control of digital platforms in key sectors is not resisted and reversed, India runs the danger of what has been called digital colonization.

Citizens of India should be deeply concerned about the ongoing developments in the e-commerce and especially the online retail space, the latest of which is the Walmart-Flipkart deal. We the undersigned, call for an urgent national debate on this important issue of economic independence and digital sovereignty, affecting the interests of many millions of Indians in different walks of life from workers to farmers, small shopkeepers and suppliers, manufacturers and traders, and a host of service providers, apart from potentially compromising consumption data of hundreds of millions of Indians.

Pending a national debate involving all the affected constituencies, and an informed collective decision based on it, we further demand that the Government of India halts Walmart’s takeover of Flipkart, upholds the policy of restricting FDI in multi-brand retail, and draws up a policy in consonance with this for online retail. We also seek a comprehensive policy on leveraging the strategic value of India’s data for the interest of India and her people, and on domestic ownership and regulation of digital platforms in key sectors.

Endorsed by:

Organisations/ Networks

  1. All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC)
  2. All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS)
  3. All India Online Vendors Associations
  4. All India Public Sector and Central Government Officers Confederation
  5. Centre for Financial Accountability ( CFA)
  6. Chamber of Associations of Maharashtra Industry and Trade (CAMIT)
  7. Delhi Science Forum
  8. Environment Support Group (ESG)
  9. Federation of Traders Organisations of West Bengal
  10. Focus on the Global South
  11. Forum against Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)
  12. Free Software Movement of India (FSMI)
  13. Hawkers Joint Action Committee
  14. India FDI Watch
  15. Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
  16. IT For Change
  17. Knowledge Commons
  18. National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM)
  19. National Fishworkers Forum (NFF)
  20. National Working Group on Patent Laws and WTO (NWGPL)
  21. New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI)
  22. Small Business Congress

Individuals:

  1. Prabir Purkayastha, Chief Editor, Newsclick
  2. Prof. Biswajit Dhar, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi
  3. Prof. CP Chandrasekhar, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi
  4. Prof. Dinesh Abrol, Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID), Delhi
  5. Prof. Jayati Ghosh, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)New Delhi
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RCEP will hurt local industry and allow workers’ exploitation, says civil society

Copy of Article on Down to Earth

The trade agreement is being negotiated in secrecy, but it is likely to favour big companies and threaten India’s agriculture, industry and e-commerce sectors

Negotiations over a proposed free trade agreement, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), will have severe impacts on the state of agriculture and manufacturing industries in India, and may allow for exploitation of workers and natural resources in India, civil society representatives say.

The 18th round of negotiations on RCEP is being held in Manila, Philippines among 16 countries that account for 50 per cent of the global population and 29 per cent of the world’s GDP. These include 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam—and six other countries having existing free trade agreements with ASEAN: Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Civil society representatives say that the agreement in being discussed secretively. “In the past four years and to this day, no text has been made available to members of the public, parliamentarians, civil society or media,” says Dharmendra Kumar, director of India FDI watch, a Delhi-based non-profit.

The agreement will considerably reduce import duties for a range of goods in agriculture, manufacturing and service industries, allowing foreign companies to compete with domestic counterparts. According to India FDI Watch, RCEP mandates import duties in the range of 0-3% for member countries. India’s current duty on industrial goods is 10 per cent at an average, and 32.5 per cent for agricultural products.

Allowing exploitation

“Reduction of import duties to promote global value chain will lead to mass layoffs, low wages and further exploitation,” says Gautam Mody, General Secretary, New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI).

“Global value chains thrive by exploiting workers who are paid low wages, tied to informal jobs with extreme job volatility, and offered no or declining social protection measures, all of which are necessary to ensure profits for the rich companies. RCEP undermines technological development in developing countries and hence does not work either for creating sustainable employment or for local value addition in developing countries” he adds.

Local agriculture, which is dominated by small and marginal farmers in India, will also feel the impact of the free trade agreement. K T Gangadhar, president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), a farmers’ organisation, says, “The ASEAN has already devastated our plantation workers. The RCEP will have even stronger impacts on agricultural jobs. Not only will RCEP extract further access in plantation products for ASEAN, it will threaten livelihoods in sectors like dairy, meat and other agricultural products by allowing duty free imports of subsidised products from Japan, New Zealand and Australia,” says Gangadhar.

Reduction of duty is likely to put India at disadvantage in its trade ties with China. “India has a large trade deficit (Rs 3.45 lakh crores in 2015-16) with China, which will increase after RCEP. Companies producing steel and heavy machinery have already raised the concern that this would lead to displacing of local manufacturing by Chinese imports,” Dharmendra Kumar says. Garment, ceramics and electronics sectors will also feel the pressure due to cheaper Chinese imports.

Upper hand for rich companies

Governments of developing countries will be restricted from making policies that regulate foreign investors, favour domestic industry, or change labour laws and wage policies, under the agreement.

“RCEP will include the infamous Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement Mechanism (ISDS) that allows foreign companies to challenge policies and judicial decisions in secret arbitration cases,” says Adil Shariff, additional general secretary, Indian National Municipal and Local Bodies Workers Federation.

He explains the implication of the agreement, with example,“There are numerous cases, for example, between Veolia (French company) and Egypt, that show how foreign companies can challenge any change in labour laws (such as the Minimum Wages Act or maternity benefit provisions in India) as it increases in their cost of operation. In addition to the compensation demanded by companies, the litigation itself is financially devastating. In one case, Philippines had to pay US$ 58 million, which it could have used for the vaccination of 3.8 million children,” says Shariff.

E-commerce sector at risk

The e-commerce chapter in RCEP will impose binding rules that will force developing nations  like India to give away data, a highly prized industrial resource, for free to big companies in Japan, New Zealand, Australia and China.

“This will seriously affect millions of small independent offline retailers and street vendors in India, as well as SME manufacturing sector workers as digitised products will compete with physical goods made in India”, says Dharmendra Kumar, who works with small retailers in India.

“The wholesale duty-free import of goods by e-commerce giants like Alibaba in China will threaten local products developed by SMEs and domestic job creation in those segments,” he adds.

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Dharmendra Kumar article in National Hindi Daily on FDI in Retail.

Govt of India now claims to be the most open economy in the world for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by deciding to permit 100% FDI for trading, including through e-commerce, in respect of food products manufactured or produced in India and relaxing local sourcing norms up to three years and a relaxed sourcing regime for another five years for entities undertaking Single Brand Retail Trading of products having ‘state-of-art’ and ‘cutting edge’ technology. Article in Sahara 25-6-16

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Farmers, Traders, Hawkers and other affected groups oppose the budget proposal to allow 100% FDI in marketing food produced and manufactured locally

Press Statement

Farmers, Traders, Hawkers and other affected groups oppose the budget proposal to allow 100% FDI in marketing food produced and manufactured locally

Delhi, 1st March 2016—The India FDI Watch Campaign, along with the Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal (Federation of All India Traders and Industries), Federation of Associations of Maharastra, The Hawkers Federation, Janpahal and various other groups, opposed the union budget 2016-17 proposal to allow 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in marketing food produced and manufactured in India.

The groups called on the Govt. of India to adhere to its party manifesto which categorically opposed FDI in multibrand retail.

Sri Shyam Bihari Mishra, President of the Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal (BUVM), said “If the government is serious about stopping wastage of food and empowering farmers it should work on a sustainable model of distribution of food considering factors of demand and supply. It does not make logical sense to allow supermarkets which are known for wastage of food throughout their supply chain operation and squeezing farmers.”

Mohan Gurnani, President of the Federation of Association’s of Maharastra (FAM) opposed the move saying, “We know for a fact that small farmers, traders and hawkers are impacted when large corporations enter into the retail sector, the Government should be restricting their entry, but instead are allowing them in through various routes, and in the mean time appeasing the public by saying they are not in favour of FDI in multibrand retail.”

Vijay Prakash Jain, Secretary General of BUVM stated that, “the entire supply line of food, which is such an important part of this nation’s retail culture and history, stands to be threatened.”

Dharmendra Kumar, India FDI Watch, Campaign Director added, “the budgetary announcement raises concerns over livelihood, nutrition, food safety, local economies and the environment. Food loses most of their nutritional properties during heavy processing. To prolong shelf life, foods may have preservatives added to them, or they may be sealed in sterile packaging and may also be exposed to controlled amounts of heat, or in some cases radiation. Processing often radically changes the nature of the original food. Processed food ingredients tend to be nutrient-poor, meaning they are high in calories relative to the amount of vitamins, minerals and other key dietary nutrients. Many processed foods are high in added sugar, sodium, saturated fats or trans fats and contain little dietary fiber and can contribute to foodborne illness outbreaks. Case studies of other countries underline the need for development programs and public support to assist small farmers and traders’. Govt of India should not deregulate the farm and retail sectors in a rushed manner until sufficient measures are put in place that will protect livelihoods of farmers and small traders.”

Ms. Priti Maurya of Janpahal works with small farmers says,”processing plants have become larger and handle larger volumes of products, sometimes from many different sources and distribute them over a broader geographic area.Small farmers never become part of such so-called modern supply chain as processors and supermarkets look for large volumes. Small farmers would lose the local market. Food processors and supermarkets,  can have considerable influence over who produces food, how it is produced and what is eaten.

Hakim Singh Rawat, General Secretary, The Hawkers Federation stated “Supermarkets too have high percentage of wastage. Wastage of non-perishable foods like grains and cereals has very low level of wastage but the Govt has allowed processors and supermarkets in all food categories in the name of reducing wastage. The policy would threaten livelihood of all street vendors depending on retailing food.”

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