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FDI in retail and Indian Muslim leadership

Tuesday October 02, 2012 10:54:13 AM, Kaleem Kawaja

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In the last about three years the growth of India's economy which had continued to grow at a healthy 6 to 8 percent annually for about a decade, has slumped to about 5 percent annually. In the same period corruption at the highest level in the government has mushroomed. Three major corruption scandals, namely the Commonwealth Games scam, the G8 telecommunication tender scam and the Coal block scam have occurred with cyclical regularity. The ministers and top bureaucrats in the central government, taking huge bribes gave away monopoly rights to explore and market controlled products and services to private contractors at very low rates without any competition. Those contractors then sold those rights at very high rates by bargaining with competitors. Thus a huge amount of funds that could have come to the government, and that the government could use for the improvement of woefully inadequate infrastructure, have gone as windfall to private contractors, many of them foreign corporations.

The prime minister and the central government are pretending as if nothing untoward has happened. The economic growth has dropped substantially. Instead of paying attention to the grievances of common people against such colossal corruption and loss to the national treasury, the prime minister and central government have announced increase in the price of diesel fuel and to let foreign big retail stores eg Walmart, Kmart, to open supermarkets in India that will sell raw food products like vegetables, fruits, milk, cooking oil and other consumer items of daily use. At this time a huge number of small time street hawkers and shopkeepers sell these goods from unpretentious shops. The multinational corporations with their huge funding bases and loans from banks will lower prices of consumer goods for a certain period to make the small shopkeepers go out of business. After that they will increase prices of those goods to sock it to the consumers one more time.

A large number of these small shopkeepers, street hawkers, artisans are Muslims. This Government action called Foreign Direct Investment in Retail, will force more than 100 million small shopkeepers in the country, to go out of business. Of this 100 million small shopkeepers roughly 35 million are Muslims. Similarly the diesel fuel price increase will cause extreme hardship to about 500 million Indians, about 90 million of them being Muslims - about half of the country's Muslim population who presently live below poverty line, by the immediate increase in prices of daily use food and consumer products.

Thus it stands to reason that leaders of Muslims in India join hands with the other leaders who are protesting the above mentioned actions of the central government and the Prime Minister loudly . However it is very strange that almost all recognizable Muslim leaders and groups are keeping aloof from these national movements that affect not only the nation but also ordinary Muslims in a big way.

The central government on its part is branding all those who are protesting the above huge corruption and terrible economic policies as communal politicians. Thus they are managing to keep the leaders of Muslims silent on this issue and cut off from participating in the major mainstream movements of the day. This is not the first time that Muslim leaders have been manipulated in this crass manner by politicians. The future of Muslims in India and their hardships are the same as that of the other deprived Indians, who now number roughly half of the country's population. Let us hope that he leaders of Indian Muslims will relaize this basic fact and join the national movements to remove corruption and to stop the harmful economic policies, that are greatly widening the gap between the rich and poor and that are resulting in big losses to the nation's treasury and its ability to lessen the burdens of the common Indian - the "aam aadmi".

The writer is a Washington based activist.

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(Photo: Manoj Kumar)



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