Lucknow, 28 August Hundreds of farmers gathered today by an agricultural collection depot run by a top national retailer to call for Uttar Pradesh to reopen Western-style supermarkets closed last week.
Citing law and order problems, UP closed 10 new Reliance supermarkets last week after protests from small traders who say efforts to modernise a $350 billion fragmented retail sector would hurt millions working in “mom and pop” shops.
That closure snowballed, with Reliance Industries Ltd, India’s biggest private company, putting on hold the opening of hundreds of air-conditioned supermarkets across northern and eastern India.
In a rare demonstration in favour of the new supermarkets, the farmers shouted “Reopen Reliance”‘ and “Long live farmers unity”. They also chanted “Down with Mayawati”, the chief minister of UP.
The protests highlighted the fault lines in rapidly globalising India, where millions feel they are being left out of a booming economy that is perceived as only benefiting wealthy consumers.
Others say India’s modernisation is being put on hold by interest groups and politicians wary of losing jobs and votes.
“It seems there is some other politics behind this abrupt decision which is certainly not in the interest of farmers,” said farm leader Ram Chandra Verma.
The Reliance centre buys up farm produce from local farmers. For many farmers it saves them money because they no longer have to go through traditional middlemen to sell their goods.
Farmers´ organisations say they will hold a bigger demonstration in the state capital in the next few days.
Large retail companies account for only 3% of India’s $350 billion retail market, which analysts estimate could double by 2015.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, also faced protests when officials came to India for a deal with Bharti Enterprises.