Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee may have pulled out of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over her opposition to the Centre's decision to allow 51 per cent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. But back in her own state capital, the verdict seems to be split on whether FDI will be good or bad for the people.
At Kolkata's largest wholesale market, Posta Bazar, traders seem to share Mamata's fears. Says Sita Nath Ghosh, a trader, "They will monopolise the market, take our jobs and our bread and butter."
However, Rabi Roy Chowdhary, a farmer, feels that FDI will bring him various benefits. Chowdhary is one of the 10,000 farmers from whom Pepsico procures potatoes in Bengal. High yield seeds along with technical and financial support are the plus points of FDI, he says, but adds that strict contracts have their own downsides too. "FDI is good. We will get technology and fertilisers. But instead of fixed prices, let them vary as per the yield every season," he says.
Another farmer Mohammed Wajid Mondal, who used to sell his produce to Pepsico, is sceptical. He says, "There were many demands on the type and size of potatoes. I faced losses. I stopped producing for them."
However, the consumers who have had a taste of big retail chains say that their Chief Minister has got it all wrong. "It is a missed opportunity for the state," says one. "The FDI would have removed the middlemen and the farmers would have benefited from this and got better prices," says another.
Right now, a reasoned debate on FDI in retail is hostage to political noise, leaving the man on the street with very few answers.