Kolkata: The West Bengal assembly on Thursday passed a resolution not to allow stores with foreign ownership in the state, becoming the first state legislature to do so after the Centre decided to allow overseas investment in multi-brand retail.
The resolution barring chain stores with foreign investment was moved by Partha Chatterjee, the state’s minister for commerce and industries and parliamentary affairs, and was passed by the house.
The moves comes close on the heels of the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) walking out of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to protest moves to open up the retail market, increase the price of diesel and limit the supply of subsidised cooking gas to households.
The Left Front supported the resolution, but staged a walkout from the assembly because its demand for some amendments to the resolution was turned down.
Several other states are opposing foreign direct investment in retail but none has so far got its lawmakers to formally bar the entry of overseas retail chains by passing a resolution in the legislative assembly.
West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra cited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as saying in December 1992 that opening up the retail sector would “destroy employment, rather than create employment”. Citing a Cornell University study, Mitra said such FDI “extinguishes employment”.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said her party had in 2007 moved a similar resolution as the principal opposition party in the state, but it got defeated.
“We lost because the Left Front was in power (at that time), but now they (the Left parties) are trying to benefit from our differences with the Congress (on this issue),” she said.
Addressing lawmakers from the Congress party who demanded a poll on the resolution, Banerjee said she believed in “forgiving”, adding that her party will participate in the debate over the issue when Parliament reconvenes and will persuade the Centre to bar foreign investors in the interest of small traders.
She said she was forced to pull out of the UPA although she wanted to remain a partner till the end of its term in 2014.