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Kerala traders shut shop to protest retail reforms and other policies.

Thiruvananthapuram: Traders in Kerala resorted to a day-long business shutdown to protest the federal government's decision to allow foreign direct investment in retail, and some other recent policies. The traders are also demanding to plug what they feel are anomalies, in the food security legislation. The hotel and restaurant sector in the state has been upset about the frequent raids on their premises following the death of a man after he consumed shawarma from a restaurant here.

Most of the shops heeded the call of the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasai Ekopana Samithi, the largest body of traders, and shut their shops from dawn to dusk on Wednesday, in support of their different demands. Many hoteliers and restaurateurs also joined the protest.

The Congress-led state government in Kerala has refused to toe the line of the federal United Progressive Alliance with regard to permitting FDI in multi-brand retail, but the traders in the state have not been convinced. They say that the state government's stand on this matter is still ambiguous. Retail traders are of the opinion that they would be wiped out if multinational retail giants are allowed in the country, despite assurances from the federal leaders.

Some jewellers also joined in the protest on Wednesday, but some like the forum of retail pharmaceutical outlets, and the Kerala Classified Hotels and Resorts, kept off the strike.

Meanwhile, protecting the interest of the common man, the Supreme Court Wednesday told the government not to disturb the existing retail price mechanism of drugs under the price control order while finalising the list of essential medicines.

The judges observed that the prices of the drugs were so high that it left the patient with the option of either to die or buy medicines by selling one's land or ornaments.

"The common man has no access to anything," observed apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya, adding that "at least one state government (Rajasthan) started distributing generic medicine free of cost".

The judges said this while chiding the government for taking long in increasing the number of important medicines under the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).

The court wondered why things had not unmoved for nine years and told the government to bring more essential medicines within the reach of the common man.

"It (government) gets going only when we step in. The court does not run the government. It steps in when it becomes essential and unavoidable," Justice Singhvi observed.

An empowered group of ministers has recommended inclusion of 348 drugs in the NLEM and now its recommendation will be placed before the cabinet for approval.

As Additional Solicitor General Siddhartha Luthra sought more time so that the government could complete the procedure for notifying the NLEM, the court referred to its Feb 2 order which said that the petition by the All India Drug Action Network, a network of not-for-profit civil society organisations, was pending for the last nine years.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Oct 3, 2012
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