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Reliance undecided on Bengal outlets

Posted by Indian Vanguard on December 9, 2007

Kolkata, November 30 Even after the state government’s assurances of “all sorts of protection”, Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Fresh is undecided on whether to go ahead with its plan to open outlets in the state.

The company had put on hold its plans for West Bengal following a spate of attacks on the retail outlets by Forward Bloc activists and Trinamool Congress and BJP.

The president and chief executive of the lifestyle division of Reliance Retail, Bijou Kurien, said that the company was planning to open 400 Fresh outlets across India soon. When asked how many of these would be opened in Bengal, Kurien said: “None”.

Reliance also plans to open 30 hypermarts in the country by the end 2008 fiscal but none has been slated for Bengal. Kurien said: “If the government makes up its mind then you can see everything. If the government cannot reach a consensus on the entry of Reliance Fresh into the state, there is no way. West Bengal has great consumption potential,” Kurien said.

On the issue of the relocation of staff recruited for Reliance Fresh in Bengal, Kurien said that most of them have been shifted on their own will.

He added that those who were keen on staying back in Kolkata were asked to do so while the company waited for the other retail initiatives to come into the state.

Around 1000 employees recruited for Reliance Fresh centres in Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have been given placements.

Kurien said that a clear national policy was required with respect to the marketing of agricultural produce to do away with the ambiguity and laws that varied from state to state.

Retail shop inauguration sparks protest in Belghoria

Tension erupted on Feeder Road in Belghoria area of the city on Friday morning after local shop owners protested against the inauguration of a private retail shop in the area.

According to police, the Spencer’s outlet was scheduled to open today and preparations were on since morning. “The inauguration was cancelled as about 150 local shop owners and workers under the Byabsayi Samiti agitated in front of the shop and protested against the opening,” said a police officer.

“A contingent of policemen was sent to bring the situation under control. The crowd dispersed around 1 pm,” said added the officer.

A leader of the Byabsayi Samiti, Swarnendu Saha, said: “Our business will be affected and our families will die of hunger. We will not allow Spencer’s to open here. It is a question of our livelihood. We are demonstrating peacefully today.”

RPG Retail has plans to increase the number of Spencer’s retail outlets across the country from the present 125 to 2,000 within the next two years.

Express India

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Kerala: Retail outlet comes under attack

Posted by Indian Vanguard on November 25, 2007

Staff Reporter

Kozhikode: A retail outlet at Chakkorathukulam on Kannur Road here came under attack on Saturday.

A group of persons, who have not been identified, attacked the 2,000-sq.ft Spencer’s Daily outlet of the RPG group on the ground floor of Elite Arcade at around 6.30 p.m. during a power failure. Over 20 glass panels of the store were smashed to pieces with iron rods. After carrying out the attack, the group threw notices in and around the shop warning against the entry of industrial houses into the retail sector. The notices bear the name of a fictitious organisation, Democratic Youth Movement. The police suspect that the name has been derived from those of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and the Solidarity Youth Movement, youth wing of the Jamat-e-Islami.

The police said the attack had been meticulously planned. It took place during a power failure. There were three outages in a gap of five to 10 minutes after 6 p.m. The Kerala State Electricity Board had been asked to furnish details.

The police do not suspect political parties or their affiliates of carrying out the attack.

The posters of the “Democratic Youth Movement” appeared at various places in the city a couple of days ago. Some extremist or traders’ organisation might have carried out the operation, the police say. Violent incidents had been reported in the past few months in various parts of the district during protests against the entry of retail giants.

The Nadakkavu police have registered a case. The Assistant Commissioner of Police C.M. Pradeepkumar and Nadakkavu Circle Inspector Sreeraj visited the retail store.

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‘Quit Retail’, protestors plan rally on Oct 10

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 9, 2007

On October 10, 50,000 to 100,000 people – representing associations of farmers, traders, hawkers, and even chemists from all over India – will converge on Mumbai’s Azad Maidan to demand that big corporations quit the retail business.

Organised under the two-year-old National Movement for Retail Democracy (NMRD), the umbrella group for these associations, the protest has set its sights on three corporations: Reliance Fresh, for being part of the country’s largest corporate house, Reliance Industries [Get Quote]; Wal-Mart, for being the world’s largest retailer; and Bharti Retail, for partnering Wal-Mart.

Addressing the rally will be some of the prominent faces of the NGO movement. They include activist Vandana Shiva, founder-director of Navdanya, a movement of organic farming, and one of the NMRD’s convenors; and Dharmendra Kumar Sharma, former Delhi unit president of the All India Students’ Association, and founder of FDI India Watch, an anti-organised retail group.

Underlining the movement’s focus on big targets, the NMRD has also acquired an ally in the US group, the Association of Communities against Organised Retail Now (better known by the acronym, Acorn), the largest community organisation at the forefront of the battle against Wal-Mart.

“It is our rainbow alliance,” said Shiva, who is considered the ideological crutch of the movement. She claims the movement already has the biggest corporations on the defensive. “Can you believe that the Reliance Fresh store in Dehradun has not dared to remove its covers?” she said.

Added Sharma, an alumnus of St Stephen’s College and the man behind linking these diverse people into a mass movement: “We started two years ago when foreign direct investment in retail was allowed and Wal-Mart began its visits to India. But it has become big and visible now as it has grown at the grassroots level in the last one year.”

From a handful of members two years ago, the number of organisations under the NMRD is expected to touch 6,000 by the end of this year. And it is attracting many new stars of the anti-retail space.

Among the big-ticket new entrants is Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), and a leading anti-VAT protestor. He is also the son of a Bharatiya Janata Party politician.

Khandelwal has an eye on the Lok Sabha polls and wants to mobilise political support when parties are most vulnerable on the issue. “We have asked all political parties to make their stand clear to us. If there is a mid-term poll, parties will be interested in capturing our vote bank,” said Khandelwal.

Other “grassroots” entrants include Shaktiman Ghosh, a firebrand trade-unionist based in Kolkata and general secretary of the National Hawkers Federation, and Mahendra Singh Tikait, who came to Delhi with 20,000 farmers last month to formally announce an alliance with the NMRD.

The key to the biggest victory staged by the movement in Uttar Pradesh has been B L Kanchal, a Rajya Sabha MP representing the Samajwadi Party. He also heads the Rashtriya Vyapar Mandal that mobilised people to storm the Reliance Fresh and RPG Enterprises’ Spencer’s outlets in Lucknow.

The same organisation went on to gather around 300 traders and fruit and vegetable vendors in east Delhi that resulted in Reliance Fresh downing its shutters for around an hour.

These kinds of successes are encouraging more organisations to sign up and raising the pitch of the protests. Ghosh said: “Corporate retail will hit the hawker in his stomach. It will take away his livelihood. That is why four crore hawkers, including two crore food vendors, are at the forefront of this movement.”

With a cart as a logo of the movement, the partners are all raring to go for their next fight. “We will burn down the next mall that is set up in Kolkata,” threatens Ghosh. October 10, clearly, is just a taste of things to come.

Social activist Vandana Shiva talks to Sreelatha Menon on the protest against big retailers

Why is the movement against big retail almost like a movement against Reliance? Why do you spare the Big Bazaars, Spencer’s or Subhikshas?

You can’t equate a chain like Spencer’s, with five shops in the whole country, with Reliance, which can open 5,000 outlets in a single city.

You have to choose targets in a movement – the ones that have the potential to do the greatest harm have to be the targets. You have to divide the giants from the small ones.

But Big Bazaar is big…

No, it is not present everywhere. Reliance is coming to every tiny town. But let me add that when we started the movement two years ago, neither Bharti nor Reliance was in the picture.

We built a broad alliance against foreign direct investment in retail. Reliance came in later and began its propaganda that it was organised retail versus unorganised retail.

Doesn’t Navdanya sell its products through some of these big stores?

Never. Wal-Mart had offered to stock our products, I had a request from Reliance too. But I refused. We are the biggest network of organic farmers and people sell through our five outlets.

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Maoists threat to MNC retail outlets

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 26, 2007

HYDERABAD :Retail units of multinational companies are being targeted by Maoists, a document of the extremists indicates. The police has asked MNCs to beef up security at retail stores following the threat. A Maoist communiqué, now in the hands of the police, asks cadre to unite in the fight against the retail business of MNCs which they said would affect small traders, shopkeepers and the middle class.

An intelligence official said, “Retail stores and petrol pumps are being set up by MNCs in various cities and towns. In cities it is very difficult for Maoists to carry out attacks on these concerns. Even in towns they will not do it when there is a crowd. Maybe at night the Maoists may resort to blasts.”

Maoists alleged that MNCs have almost taken control of retail trade in developed countries and they are looking to do so in India. The Maoists added that retail shops which provide employment to many stand to lose from the entry of MNCs.
A senior police official said, “Security can’t be provided to all the retail outlets.” The Maoist letter states, “A voice has to be raised against these sharks. The government is not going to stop them. A resistance movement of the vast affected masses is the need of the hour. Already there is a movement against the retail chains, particularly Reliance… but this has been crushed by the police.”

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What earns blows from cops wins kudos from Maoists

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 4, 2007

Anjan Chakraborty

KOLKATA, Sept. 3: The attack on the under-construction Reliance Fresh outlet in the city by members of the students’ wing of All India Forward Bloc has earned bouquets from the Maoists in the state.

The CPI-Maoist state leadership has written a letter to the central committee of AIFB, complimenting its students’ wing and daring its senior leadership to follow suit, following the attack. “Alimuddin Street or your chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee might have been irked by such an act (the attack on the Reliance Fresh outlet) of embarrassment to the favourite corporate houses, but the CPI-Maoist salutes the students who were desperate to break free from the politics of inaction, inertness and appeasement.

How long will you keep your subdued existence in the ‘Left’ Front family with your big brother CPM determined to woo MNCs, World Bank, Indian compradors to loot West Bengal? Your student wing has done a commendable job, but has your organisation played any credible role of a militant Left in the past three decades of ‘Left’ Front rule, uninterruptedly receiving the blessings of World Bank, DFID, MNCs and Indian corporate houses?” the letter questions the leadership of AIFB.

Signed by the CPI-Maoist state committee secretary, the letter, was sent to AIFB central committee on 27 August, ten days after members of the latter’s students’ wing ransacked an under-construction Reliance ‘Fresh’ retail outlet in Girish Park.

Incidentally, even BJP workers had ransacked the same Girish Park outlet on 26 August and members of Trinamul Congress were allegedly involved in a similar attack on another under-construction Reliance ‘Fresh’ outlet near Uttarpara in Hooghly district on 19 August. But, no such ‘letter of appreciation’ was sent to the leadership of either the BJP or the Trinamul Congress from the Maoists side.
While taking a dig at the CPI-M for its “forcible acquisition of peasants’ lands in the name of industrialisation” and the “dirty policy of opening the retail trade to Indian compradors and multinational companies,” the Maoists called on the All India Forward Bloc leadership to: “fight tooth and nail the pro-imperialist, pro-capitalist, pro-rich policies of the so-called Left Front government. However, it is never possible from within the CPM-led ‘Left’ Front government.

“The CPI-Maoist will always make a common cause with you and any other force that really wants to do battle against the criminal forces out to destroy common people….”

The Reliance group had decided to defer roll out of its retail network comprising 145 stores in various parts of the state following the attacks. It had planned to open 50 Reliance Fresh retail outlets in Kolkata, six of which were slated to go on stream soon.

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Traders rampage mars Reliance retail opening in UP

Posted by Indian Vanguard on August 24, 2007

Lucknow, August 22: About a hundred small businessmen, led by the president of Uttar Pradesh Udyog Vyapar Mandal and Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha member Banwari Lal Kanchal, went on a rampage at two Reliance Fresh retail outlets of the city on Wednesday, damaging property and items kept for sale. The police used lathis to disperse the mob at the Jankipuram store and arrested Kanchal and three of his supporters.

Reliance Fresh launched its operations in the city on Wednesday, with the opening of nine outlets. Trouble started around 11 am in Alambagh when the mob, led by Kanchal, reached the outlet and started throwing around products. The staff pulled down shutters, but the mob kept pelting stones and damaged a few shopping trolleys.

The police reached the spot after a while and dispersed the mob. But Kanchal and his supporters were unfazed. From there, they marched to the Jankipuram outlet around 5 pm where another bout of hooliganism followed. They broke window panes and furniture, and smashed items kept in the store. However, the police was quick to respond this time and resorted to lathi charge to disperse the crowd. “We also arrested Kanchal and three of his supporters and an FIR was lodged”, said Rajeshwar Singh, Circle Officer, Maha Nagar. One more case was lodged against Kanchal at the Gudumba police station.

A senior Reliance official said the attacks were pre-planned. “They don’t want is to provide better and cheaper products to the residents of Lucknow. We are also paying better prices to farmers. The mob not only destroyed property but also misbehaved with women, journalists and the police,” he said. Incidents of rowdiness were also reported at a couple of RPG retail outlets and in an outlet of Spencers Daily. A mob raised slogans against “mall culture” outside a retail outlet in Rajendra Nagar. On its way to Jankipuram, the mob also stopped at the Spencer’s Badshah Nagar outlet.

FB supporters ransack Reliance outlet In Kolkata

Kolkata, August 18: Forward Bloc supporters today ransacked one of the Reliance Retail outlets coming up in the city. The incident took place around 4.30 pm at an outlet situated at the Nanda Mullick Lane in Girish Park Police Station area. Preparations were on at the store for the inauguration.

The agitators themselves intimated the police about their protest at the store.

“Around 60 FB supporters ransacked the store. Initially, they were shouting slogans but suddenly started pelting stones and bricks. They also attacked some parked cars near the store. We have booked a case,” said Ajay Ranade, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central). However, no arrests had been made till last reports came in.

“We are opposed to the state government’s decision allowing big companies like Reliance to enter the retail sector. This is just a small instance of our protest. If the government does not stop, we will organise mass agitations. If the retail outlets come up, hundreds of small traders and businessmen will lose their livelihood,” said FB leader Hafiz Alam Sairani.

According to police, FB supporters gathered for a rally around 4.30 pm chanting anti-government and anti-Reliance slogans.

Around 40 employees were inside the store at the time. In the agitation, the showroom glass was shattered and windowpanes were damaged. The supporters also tried to enter the building but employees called the police. The agitators fled when a huge contingent of policemen rushed to the spot.

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) lambasted its Front partner, raising questions regarding the motive behind organising agitations only against Reliance stores.

“I do not understand what they are trying to do and why? Why they are not protesting against Pantaloons, or other companies who have already set up outlets in the city. They are only targeting Reliance. Do they have a problem with the name ‘Reliance’ or with the subject of retail stores,” said Benoy Konar, CPI(M) State Secretariat member.

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CPIM Govt slammed for nod to Reliance retail

Posted by Indian Vanguard on August 21, 2007

Govt slammed for nod to Reliance retail

Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, Aug. 20: Forward Bloc leader and chairman of the West Bengal State Marketing Board, Mr Naren Chatterjee has sent letters admonishing the two CPI-M ministers, Mr Abdur Rezzak Mollah, land and land reforms department and Mr Mahanta Chatterjee, food processing and horticulture department, for superseding the Marketing Board in giving permission to Reliance to set up its retail chain, Reliance Fresh, in the state.

From the very beginning, Forward Bloc has been opposed to Reliance or any other large corporate entering the agri-marketing scene. Only two days back, Forward Bloc activists ransacked the premises of the first potential Reliance Fresh retail outlet in north Kolkata. Former chief minister Mr Jyoti Basu today admitted that there are differences among Left Front partners on this issue and the matter needs to be discussed.

Mr Naren Chatterjee said: “Reliance and other corporates like Metro Cash should stay away from agri-marketing in the state. I object to the food processing and land and land reforms departments for trying to allow Reliance entry into agri-marketing. Calling their centers ‘food processing units’ is mere eyewash. The food processing and horticulture department does not have jurisdiction to give Reliance permission.”

In his letter to Mr Mahanta Chatterjee, the chairman of the State Marketing Board has said: “…it is expected that your department will not interfere in activities relating to marketing of agricultural produce in any manner including setting up of any parallel marketing network…”
In another letter to Mr Abdur Rezzak Mollah, the chairman wrote: “…No land is to be allotted nor is any relaxation in land ceiling allowed to any private commercial organisation for establishing markets of agri-produce without recommendation from the Agriculture Marketing Department.” Mr Mollah however replied back within two hours saying that he didn’t do anything bypassing the existing laws.
Mr Naren Chatterjee said that agriculture traders in the state were feeling threatened by Reliance’s purported entry, and there could even be a law and order situation in the state.

“I have met vendors’ associations and they are very agitated about the situation. Agricultural traders are angry too. If Reliance enters agri-marketing, there will be an uprising in the state. There might be a serious law and order situation. The state government should look after the larger public interest,” Mr Chatterjee said.

The State Marketing Board proposes to have its own agri-marketing network and retail outlet, waking up to this need rather suddenly. “We will write a letter to the state government to have at least 10 per cent of the total agricultural produce sold through public retail units,” Mr Chatterjee said.

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