Defending Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal on Tuesday said the move would benefit the farmers and accused the opposition of siding with middlemen.
Participating in a debate in the Lok Sabha on FDI in multi-brand retail, Mr Sibal also argued that the debate was not needed and was just political in nature. (Rate Kapil Sibal's speech here
"The purpose of the policy is that the farmer should get a higher price than he gets in the mandi (market)," he said.
"Only 15 to 17 per cent of the market price goes to the farmer. Opposition leaders should decide whether they are with the farmer or with the middleman... We are with the farmer and consumer... you are with the middleman," Mr Sibal said.
The minister cited the case of West Bengal, saying Pepsico there bought agricultural produce from 10,000 farmers.
"The market price of potato is Rs.3 per kg, Pepsico gives Rs.7 per kg," he said.
He also stressed that implementing FDI in retail was dependent on the state governments and no one was being forced to accept it.
"It was decided that retail will only be in cities with over 10 lakh population. There are 53 such cities. After that we felt some states have opposition government. If we separate the states that don't want it, there are 18 cities left," Mr Sibal said.
"So if FDI in retail will be implemented in only 18 cities, why the debate that is happening," he said.
"If you don't want FDI in multi-brand retail, don't (implement it). But what about the states where chief ministers want it, how can you stop them? This is a new definition of federal structure that one state will tell another that I will not implement it but will not let you do it either," he said.
"This debate is not needed at all, it is a totally political debate," he said.
Enumerating the merits of the policy, he said the investors will have to invest at least $100 million, half of which will be in creating infrastructure.