“Some observations have been made that Wal-Mart gave some amount to government officials here. It is our duty to look into it,” Vigilance Commissioner T M Bhasin ..
WASHINGTON: America’s multinational retail corporation Wal-Mart is suspected to have paid bribes worth millions of dollars in India, according to a media report.
In a major report, The Wall Street Journal said Walmart’s “suspected bribery” unearthed in India involves thousands of small payments to low-level local officials to help move goods through customs or obtain real-estate permits.
“The vast majority of the suspicious payments were less than $200, and some were as low as $5, the people said, but when added together they totaled millions of dollars,” the daily said.
In 2013, Wal-Mart shelved plans to open retail stores in India by severing a joint venture with Bharti Enterprises Ltd and instead decided to become solely a wholesaler there, the report said.
Wal-Mart, who was pushing the previous UPA regime for opening of the multi-brand retail sector was also involved in lobbying before the US Congress in this regard, Congressional disclosure reports have said in the past few years.
According to the report, Wal-Mart’s massive bribery efforts is unlikely to bring in any penalty on it as its Indian operation does not yield any profit under the provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of the United States.
“Because penalties under the FCPA are often connected to the amount of profit the alleged misconduct generated, the payments in India wouldn’t be likely to result in any sizable penalty, since Wal-Mart’s operations there haven’t been particularly profitable, said people familiar with the matter,” the daily reported.
There was no immediate response from Walmart’s corporate headquarters here on the Wall Street Journal’s report on its bribery in India.
According to The Wall Street Journal, federal investigators “found evidence of bribery in India, centering on widespread but relatively small payments made to local officials there,” during the course of its “high-profile federal probe” into allegations of widespread corruption at WalmartStores Inc’s operations in Mexico.
The investigations though have found little in the way of major offenses in Mexico, and is likely to result in a much smaller case than investigators first expected, the daily said.
Millions of Indian workers launched a 24-hour strike on Wednesday against what they said were Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “anti-labor policies,” prompting billions of dollars in economic losses.
Ten major unions called the nationwide strike over the government’s pro-business initiatives after recent talks with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley broke down.
The unions — which represent a wide range of industries, from banking to coal mining — are demanding the government dump plans to sell off stakes in state-run companies to boost the public purse and to shutter unproductive factories.
“We are against these anti-labor policies. The government is going to change the laws to benefit the corporates,” said Gurudas Dasgupta, secretary of the Indian Trade Union Congress, which has 3.6 million members.
“The changes they want to bring are against the working classes. I am very confident of a hugely successful strike,” he told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday.
Later on Wednesday, Dasgupta told The Times of India that the response to the strike was “magnificent” and estimated that more than 150 million workers participated, though the figure could not be independently confirmed.
Workers in the banking, manufacturing, construction and coal mining sectors were among those who walked off the job, according to union leaders.
Modi won a landslide election victory last May, promising a string of business-friendly reforms to attract foreign investment and revive Asia’s third largest economy.
But the opposition has blocked flagship tax and land reforms, aggravating investor concerns, while the unions are increasingly angry over the reforms.
“The Modi government has turned a blind eye towards the problems being faced by the labor class,” Dharmendra Kumar, president of The Hawkers’ Federation, said at a news conference.
“The government must rethink its labor policies. Modi has made a mockery of us by telling the world to come and manufacture in India because it has the cheapest labor.”
The Hawkers’ Federation is demanding that a monthly minimum wage hike from $72 to $226 be extended to the informal sector.
India’s economy grew by a slower-than-expected 7 percent in the first quarter of the financial year and experts warn reforms are needed to at least keep that pace to create jobs for millions of young people.
Previous strikes have shut down cities and cost the Indian economy millions of dollars in lost production.
Industry body Assocham estimated $3.7 billion in economic losses from Wednesday’s strike, singling out the country’s ports where exports were stranded on the docks, reported The Times of India.
Al Jazeera and wire services
NEW DELHI: With Congress and Left opposing the GST Bill, Home Minister Rajnath Singh today appealed to all parties to lend support to the proposed legislation for its passage in Parliament, saying the government will be open to amendments in future.
“I appeal to all parties to support us in Parliament so that we can pass it. We are open to amendments of GST Bill in future as per suggestions of traders,” he said addressing a conference of traders here.
Singh said the government was trying its best to pass the GST Bill in Parliament but due to the continuous disruption of the House by the opposition, the effort has not been successful.
The GST Bill was passed by Lok Sabha but the Rajya Sabha is yet to pass it due to opposition of Congress, Left parties and AIADMK. These parties want changes in the Bill.
Terming retail traders as the backbone of country’s economy, Singh said the government would not allow their interests to be affected by globalisation.
The Home Minister said the central government understands the difficulty faced by the retail traders and would do its best to resolve them as no one can undermine their importance.
“We were, are and will always be business friendly. You had demanded that there should be no FDI in multi-brand retail and we ensured that it does not happen,” he said.
Dharmendra Kumar’s article published in Hindi daily on the Social-economic-caste census of India and rural homelessness. Translated version in English is at the bottom.
Dharmendra Kumar led a delegation of street vendors leaders to the Hon’ble Minister of Labour & Employment, Govt. of NCT of Delhi demanding creation of a Street Vendors Board, Provision of social security to all existing street vendors and registration of street vendors associations as trade unions.