New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is showing more protectionist tendencies after giving a cold-shoulder to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos.
Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal has now urged traders to promote swadeshi by selling and consuming locally-manufactured goods.
“If traders start using swadeshi (indigenous) goods, sell swadeshi products and promote those items, the economic growth will boom…no one can stop us from growing at 7, 8, and 9% and double digits,” Goyal said Monday at an event organised by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).
A CAIT source said the event was organised to felicitate Goyal for his stand on e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Flipkart.
“Goyal’s stand on Amazon, Flipkart shows that this government is with the domestic traders,” said Suresh Bindal, CAIT’s Delhi chief, at the event.
Goyal, meanwhile, hinted at a ban on the import of furniture goods from China and other countries.
“Can’t we manufacture good furniture? We have huge resources here, (but) we are importing cheap furniture from outside. If we make good furniture, see how much employment we can create,” he said.
The Modi government has already restricted the import of refined palm oil from Malaysia. Sources said the move was a response to Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad’s criticism of India’s Article 370 move in J&K and the Citizenship Amendment Act.
A few days ago, Goyal also hinted that India could impose curbs on imports that were brought in without specifying under which category they fall.
At the CAIT event, the minister said when the government banned the import of agarbatti (incense sticks), there was a huge “hue and cry”.
“But what is the purpose of importing agarbatti when India is a producer of agarbatti?” he said.
“We will import specialised things that are not available in India, but by importing cheap toys, agarbatti, we are denying employment to our people. Countries are dumping cheap products (on India), which we can manufacture easily and it will create employment but because of cheap prices, they (imported goods) are flooding (Indian) markets,” the minister said.
Goyal also asked if Indians can be in top positions in NASA, Google, Mastercard, then why can’t it produce more quality swadeshi products.
“America produces 8,000 quality products. India produces only 500. We can make more,” he added.
Proposal to ban the import of furniture
A proposal to restrict or ban the import of furniture has been forwarded to the government two months ago by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, a DPIIT officer told ThePrint.
If the government at all restricts or bans the import of furniture, China will be the biggest loser.
According to government data, India imported furniture worth Rs 4,221 crore in 2018-19 and China’s share was Rs 2,177 crore. India also imports furniture from Malaysia, Italy, Singapore.
As far as exports are concerned, India exported furniture worth Rs 10,500 crore to European countries, China, Singapore, among others, in 2018-19, stated the government data.
Govt may consider launching ‘MUDRA Plus’ scheme
Goyal also hinted that the government can launch ‘MUDRA Plus’ scheme with new features. MUDRA is an ambitious Modi government scheme that helps small entrepreneurs get loans to expand or set up businesses.
“If a database of MUDRA beneficiaries is prepared and any discrepancy in the scheme is pointed out or if more features for the scheme are suggested, then the government can consider bringing in the (new) scheme after the Delhi elections,” he said.
Goyal also urged traders to prepare their database so that the government can make policy on them.
“At present, there is no authentic database of traders. Some organisations say there are 7 lakh traders, some say there are 1 crore mobile retailers. So a proper traders’ database is needed,” the minister said.
‘E-commerce companies are modern East India Company’
Jaswinder Lamba, representing the mobile industry, said that e-commerce companies are the modern-day East India Company.
“E-commerce companies are destroying (Indian) economy and they are the modern East India Company. 50% of the mobile retail industry stopped functioning after Amazon, Flipkart came to India. The government should end the exclusivity of e-commerce sectors. There should be price uniformity for retail and e-commerce,” said Lamba.
Although Flipkart is founded by Indians, it was bought by Walmart Inc. in 2018.
CAIT secretary Pravin Khandelwal, meanwhile, urged Goyal to simplify formalities for registering a business. At present, if anyone wants to set up a business, he needs to fill up as many as 28 forms. Khandelwal requested the government to only have one form instead.
“Loans should be easily available to shopkeepers and retail traders. Right now, banks aren’t too keen to lend the shopkeepers. If the government incorporates this issue in the national retail policy, it will be easier to get credit for the shopkeepers and retailers,” he said.
Goyal assured the traders that the government will ensure that there is only one form to register a business and easy availability of credit for them in the near future.