"The minister has been writing letters to chief ministers, but feels that it will be a more fruitful exercise to meet them to address their doubts on the issue," an official told ET. Last month, Sharma had sought support on the issue from Odisha, Punjab and UP.
Sharma is scheduled to meet Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in Chandigarh next week. This will be followed with a meeting with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and, later in the month, with Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar who has firmly opposed the move in the past. More meetings will follow, the official added.
The government had proposed late last year to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, but had to backtrack due to widespread opposition from traders and political parties.
On the issue of defining the 30% domestic sourcing clause in single-brand retail, the minister said clarification would be given if required. "If there is greater degree of clarity required then the government will definitely do so, because the policy has been made to attract investments to generate jobs so that manufacturing is done in India itself," Sharma told reporters on Thursday.
The minister said that Swedish retailer IKEA, which has proposed to invest Rs 10,500 crore in India, will not have a problem in sourcing goods from the SME sector as it is already doing so from small vendors for its global operations.
The Cabinet had approved infusion of up to 51% FDI in multi-brand retail in November, drawing cheer from global retailers such as Walmart and Carrefour, but the decision has not yet been implemented following opposition from small retailers, opposition parties and state governments, including those of Kerala, West Bengal and Bihar. The decision to allow 100% FDI in single-brand retail was implemented early this year.
The Centre says opening up the retail sector will bring in much-needed investments and spruce up the supply chain, but critics say it will force small retailers to shut shop.
"It will also unfold immense employment opportunities for rural youth and make them stakeholders in the entire agri business chain from farm to fork," Sharma had said in his letter to some chief ministers earlier this month.
Sharma told reporters that talks are on with the state governments. "Chief ministers of states have expressed their opinion on the issue. Many states want it to be implemented, and for that they have spoken to the Central government. There are some states that want some clarification on the issue, while some have reservations," the minister said.
Apart from the state governments, the government will engage with community organisations, farmers and consumers for a consensus, Sharma said.
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