Political storm over Wal-Mart's 'illegal bid' to influence India

Indian government accused of corruption after supermarket spends $25m lobbying in US

Delhi

The controversy over the Indian government's plan to allow foreign supermarkets to enter the country took a new twist when it was revealed that the American retail giant Wal-Mart had spent millions of dollars lobbying the US authorities on the issue.

Amid noisy scenes, proceedings in the upper house of India's parliament were brought to a halt by the main opposition party which demanded an investigation into whether or not Wal-Mart's actions had been lawful.

The move by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) followed reports in the Indian media that Wal-Mart had paid $25m (£16m) on lobbying services, including "enhanced market access for investment in India". While it is widespread in the US, lobbying is technically illegal in India, even though it goes on in various unregulated ways.

Last night, a BJP MP and spokesman, Prakash Javadekar, told The Independent that the revelations demanded a full investigation before the government gave the go-ahead for the foreign chains to operate. He claimed the ruling Congress party had a reputation for corruption.

"We don't have official lobbying here and if someone has been paying money that would not be good. It smacks of corruption," he said. "The [coalition] government has come to symbolise corruption because it is synonymous with corruption."

The controversy over whether or not foreign firms should be able to enter India focuses on retail market that is worth an annual £250bn. At the moment, the vast majority of this sector is made up of small shops and markets and the political opposition claims that the arrival of stores such as Tesco, Carrefour and Wal-Mart will lead to the loss of huge numbers of jobs.

Those who support a reform of legislation believe the new investment could help the economy and provide new skills and expertise. The Indian Staffing Federation, an industry body, has suggested foreign direct investment (FDI) could create 10m jobs over the next decade.

The chains themselves have suggested they could revolutionise India's food distribution networks and create a cold-chain system. At the moment, an estimated one-third of vegetables and crops grown by India's farmers rots before reaching the consumer.

The row over the Wal-Mart lobbying of the US government – first revealed in a disclosure report to the US Senate – came a week after a vigorous debate in the two houses of the Indian parliament about FDI and a subsequent vote which the Congress-led government won.

Wal-Mart yesterday dismissed the allegations of illegal lobbying as "entirely false".

"In accordance with US law, US companies are required to disclose the issues and expenditures associated with lobbying on a quarterly basis. The expenditures are a compilation of expenses associated with staff, association dues, consultants, and contributions spent in the United States," the company said. "Our Washington office naturally had discussions with US government officials about a range of trade and investment issues that impact our businesses in the US and worldwide and disclosed this in accordance with the law."

Earlier, the company expressed its readiness to develop wholesale operations it has with an Indian partner.

At the same time Tesco, which is lined up to operate a joint venture with India's Tata group, said: "Tesco welcomes this positive development but we await further detail."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Anna Smaill’s debut novel, The Chimes, is a fusion of fantasy and romance
booksMan Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Sport
Ji So-Yun scores the only goal of the game
sport
Arts and Entertainment
One of the Pyongyang posters, the slogan of which reads: ‘Let the exploits of the northern railway conductors shine!’
art
Life and Style
Linguine with mussels and fresh tomatoes
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer