Vocal critics of liberal economic policy have made it a habit to tot up the human costs of reforms and then use these examples to argue against change. It is far more difficult to show that the lack of reforms also imposes human costs, in terms of jobs not created and higher prices paid by consumers.
But the current battles over organized retail do show us the pitfalls of stalled reforms. Reliance Retail has announced that it would lay off 870 workers in Uttar Pradesh and 400 in West Bengal because its stores in these states have been attacked, physically by protestors and verbally by politicians.
There may be an element of pressure tactics in these layoffs. But state governments should also look at the larger issue. Laws and actions that act as obstacles to investment eventually lead to fewer jobs and higher prices. Protecting existing retailers looks attractive, till people realize that it is being done at the cost of farmers, workers and consumers.