Mumbai Killing time in the Delhi airport on the way to Mumbai, my eye caught the cover of a Forbes – India magazine with a huge headline: “Wal-Mart’s Billion Dollar Baby.” The India FDI Watch Campaign is still determined around these issues, so I was curious how the company was spinning their joint venture with Bharti these days.
Wal-Mart is amazing. You take your eye off the company for a minute, and it explodes on you. Gross sales are now over $400 billion annually. The company has to add $8 billion, just to grow by 2%. But, I digress, because public relations though all of this clearly was, there were nuggets of real interest.
They concede that pure, legitimate “cash-and-carry” or full-on wholesale operations, which is their only legal entry point within the foreign direct investment (FDI) rules in India is a first for them. Even Sam’s in the US is a hybrid of individual member/customers and business/wholesale purchasers. In India the entire focus of their market is the birana or mom-and-pop stores that proliferate in India.
Silver Spring Dharmendra Kumar, director of ACORN India’s office in Delhi, forwarding me a fascinating article about an announcement from the government that they are preparing to “force” cities and states to create “reservations” for the poor and disadvantaged in the cities, rather than allowing land to simply be auctioned off.
I’ve enclosed the whole article, because this is obviously not a settled matter and is bound to create huge controversy. On the other hand it would apply to both private developments (like inclusionary zoning does in North America) and public developments. It would transfer land and title to slum dwellers. It might even mean that the huge dislocations of the redevelopment plan in the city of Delhi for example where tens of thousands have been moved to the very outside rims and suburbs of this vast city.
This proposal which seems to be a centerpiece of the government’s plans for hundreds of millions of poor should be a huge fight, and may be one worth both our engagement and everyone’s close attention.