Shops and establishments in both retail and wholesale segments in large part of the country have downed their shutters in response to an all-India strike called to protest the government's decision to allow FDI in retail
New Delhi: Neighbourhood shops were open but most of the markets in the national capital remained shut on Thursday as traders observed the all-India bandh in protest against Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail sector, reports PTI.
Moreover, shops and establishments in both retail and wholesale segments in West Bengal today too downed their shutters in response to an all-India strike called to protest the government's decision to allow FDI in retail.
The traders alleged that the union government's decision of allowing FDI in retail sector would spell disaster for small traders, in particular endangering the livelihood of millions of trading community.
BJP joined the traders' protest by organising marches and burnt effigies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in at least 20 locations of the city. Most of the political parties and trade unions have supported the day's token strike.
Confederation of All India Traders' Delhi unit president Narender Madan and Confederation of West Bengal Trade Associations (CWBTA) said a large number of traders and all sister trade bodies have kept their shops shut to participate in the all-India bandh.
Mr Madan claimed wholesale and retail markets in Delhi were closed in Sadar Bazar, Kamla Nagar, Chawri Bazar, Karol Bagh, Kashmere Gate, Tilak Nagar, Rohini, Krishna Nagar and other markets.
"Around five crore traders belonging to 10,000 traders' bodies across the country are participating in the bandh. Traders took out marches in commercial markets across the country," CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said.
Khandelwal said the decision on FDI will create an uneven playing field in the country which will tilt towards MNCs and prove to be a "nightmare" for traders and consumer.
Maintaining that there was no need for foreign investment in the sector, he said, "The Government should withdraw the permission of FDI in retail."
He said Indian retail sector was being run successfully by the indigenous capital at the rate of 15% and contributing 10% of GDP. "So no FDI was required".
"The foreign retailers can open in big cities, but they will source from mandis across rural India and small town. With their money and power over time, they can corner the supply of produce and dominate the outsources side," he said.
A teacher who doesn’t hesitate to beg, to provide free education, Shukti Sarma reports
Professor Sandeep Desai is rather well known on Western Railway suburban trains. Almost everyday, one can spot him, with a bag on his shoulder and a clear donation box in his hand, asking for money from the passengers. For six hours, from Goregaon to Churchgate, he endures the Mumbai suburban train crush, so that children at his free school can get primary education in English medium. “From Rs10 to Rs500, anything is welcome,” he says.
A former marine engineer, Prof Desai was teaching at SP Jain Institute of Management & Research when he decided to set up a free school for underprivileged children. “My students were required to work and apply management strategies in some rural or social setting for their summer internships. They came back with some very interesting reports; and that got me thinking about starting a free school,” says Prof Desai.
Along with his late mother and renowned advertising veteran Noorul Islam, Prof Desai started Shloka Missionaries in 2001. There are two schools that Shloka runs now, one in Goregaon, where classes are conducted from kindergarten to fifth standard, and the other at Kankavli, where children can study up to class II. “Most students are children of small farmers or landowners. In Goregaon, we have 62 kids and in Kankavli there are 26,” says Prof Desai. He plans to open another school in Ratnagiri which will teach up to junior college level.
The medium of instruction is English which, Prof Desai feels, is essential for progress. “These children cannot afford expensive private schools of ICSE or CBSE Board, but without fluency in English, they will not be able to compete with others,” he says. Not only is command over English important for communication, it also boosts children’s self-confidence significantly.
It was not easy to convince parents, initially, to send their children, although education was free. “Parents think that after they leave our school, they will have difficulty paying the high fees of English-medium schools for their kids. And, in most cases, these schools are situated far away. Also, there is the issue of migration,” Prof Desai says.
“I don’t have any phenomenal individual success stories; because Shloka is still too young. But when I hear children from slums speak English fluently, I feel very happy,” he smiles. Students who have passed out from there are assisted by Shloka to get admission in other schools and they have been doing very well. He aims to add one further level to his schools each year.
Apart from schools, Shloka also organises workshops and activities, one of which is on communication and advertising strategy, conducted all across India. The schools are run mostly by the money Prof Desai collects every day, apart from grants and corporate contributions. Prof Desai employs many temporary teachers. Teachers at the entry-levels are paid at par (or slightly more) with those of the private schools. “Of course, we cannot afford to pay more when they become permanent. But at the entry level, we pay them Rs1,000 more than what they would get in private schools. Apart from that, many of my students also volunteer to teach,” he says.
But things have not been easy. While trying to construct the school building, Prof Desai faced a lot of trouble getting municipal clearances and with obtaining infrastructure facilities like electricity and water. Even after spending as much as Rs46 lakh, legal documentation has not been completed for the Goregaon property, and Prof Desai is fighting in the Borivali magistrate’s court for the same. “Once this is completed, we can make full use of the place and can teach up to 500 students. We also need to get government recognition to get further grants,” says Prof Desai.
One can volunteer for Shloka as a teacher or help raise funds. All donations to Shloka Missionaries are exempt under Section-80 (G) of the Income Tax Act.
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