New Delhi: As organized retail begins to take root in India, opposition to it continues to grow and become more institutionalized. Even as the Central government waits to act on a study on the impact of organized retail on small Mom and Pop stores, several states have imposed or are imposing restrictions on companies in the business.
Customers at a Reliance Fresh store in Noida
Close on the heels of governments in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal rallying against big names in retail, Uma Bharti, leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s splinter group Bharatiya Janshakti Party has set a two-week deadline for Reliance Retail Ltd to close a dozen grocery stores in Bhopal and Indore in Madhya Pradesh or face action from the party.
Last month, the Uttar Pradesh government ordered the closure of Reliance Fresh stores in the state, citing law and order issues and pending a state government study of the impact of organized retail on small traders and wholesalers. Opposition from the Forward Bloc, a key partner of the Left Front in West Bengal, prompted Reliance Retail to suspend the roll-out of its grocery stores in Kolkata. And Kerala has already said it will bar modern retailers from opening stores in rural parts and restrict them to open limited stores in urban centres.
In some ways, Reliance Retail is the proxy target for people protesting the entry of organized retail or governments considering restrictions against companies in the business. The company, an arm of Reliance Industries Ltd opened its first outlet in 2006 but has since opened around 280 more, the largest network of stores operated by any firm in the country.
Vegetable and fruit sellers burn an egy of RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani in Bhopal in August.
“Big corporate houses should do big businesses and should not take the livelihoods of the poor people,” Bharti said in a letter addressed to Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd.
Meanwhile, a Central government mandated study by a New Delhi-based think tank on the impact of modern retail is being reworked to incorporate a wider sample base and may set the guidelines for the policy on modern retail in India.