Himachal poll a testing ground for economic reforms

Shimla: Election din in the hills is not just about local issues as the state BJP government battles five years of incumbency, while the UPA government has put the reform agenda unleashed ahead of the poll announcement on trial.

Congress is advocating FDI in retail as a panacea for the farm sector, something that will bring in investment for advanced technologies in establishing cool chains to move highly perishable fruit and vegetable produces and reducing intermediaries in a farm to consumer trading outlets, BJP has vehemently opposed the move saying that it would shut down most pop and mom stores in the country.

“FDI in aviation, in high technology transfer for steel industry is welcome,” says Shanta Kumar, senior BJP vice-president “but in pharmaceutical industry and retail it would harm the country.”

Companies like Dabur and Ranbaxy in pharma sector have already been bought by multi-national drug companies; not before imposing a condition that the original promoters would not enter the sector again,” he said.

FDI in retail being beneficiary for farmers was only a myth. All it would do is increase unemployment as it would harm the small trading community in the country and increase the loot in the country with multinationals raking in large profits, said Kumar.

Union minister for parliamentary affairs Pawan Bansal said that India needs investments to meet its growth targets and growth meant more jobs for the youth.

“Price rise was an election issue,” he said, “and FDI in retail that BJP was opposing would boost Himachal’s horticulture and off-season vegetable produce substantially.”

“Not only would deployment of newer technologies help to reduce the about 40 percent wastages that farm produces incur, but retail chains set up with foreign direct investment would fetch farmers better prices and reduce prices for consumers by reducing the chain of middlemen involved in the trade,” said Bansal.

Defending the UPA governments decision to increase prices of petroleum products, especially LPG, he said, “the government subsidy bill on the oil account was becoming unsustainable, which has to faced and the union government has rightly done so.”

Feeling the pinch of increased petro products prices, Tarun, a political analyst said, “in Gujarat, Congress is up against BJP stalwart Narinder Modi and before taking the decision to raise these prices the union government probably wrote of Himachal also, a state which does not matter much in national politics. However, should the Congress defeat the incumbent BJP government in the November 4 poll against the odds, it would only imply that good economics makes good politics too.”

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik has nurtured Hill Post for over a decade. A chequered path had him drift from managing family owned apple orchards, to turning a documentary filmmaker, to a journalist - with India’s leading television networks and newspapers, to boot strapping in founding Start-Ups. He lives in Shimla.

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