CAIT turns traders into a vote bank for LS Polls

India’s apex trade associations body, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) plans to turn trading community into a vote bank for LS Polls. The association will launch One Nation-One Trader-Ten Votes Campaign on February 1; Urges PM to grant pre-Budget relief package for traders. A report

The trading community in the country is gearing up to play a major role in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has planned to launch a nationwide campaign from February 1 to consolidate the community into a vote bank for the Lok Sabha polls to obtain benefits for the sector.

Kajal Anand: Ready for the battle?

Stating that the entire cosmetics industry is with CAIT, the apex body’s national vice president Kajal Anand mentions that it’s time all traders showed the strength of their unity.

This decision was taken at the National Governing Council Meeting held in Bhopal which was attended by about 200 prominent trade leaders from 24 states. CAIT national president BC Bhartia and secretary general Praveen Khandelwal opines that the trading community has suffered neglect from political parties despite its substantial contribution to the economy. The initiative aims to bring the trader community into mainstream and establish their importance.

The action plan

Beginning February 1, CAIT will simultaneously launch a national campaign in 100 cities in India with the slogan “One Nation-One Trader-Ten Votes”. Special teams of local trade associations in cities affiliated with CAIT will contact traders in their respective area and urge them to cast their vote on the whip of CAIT and that of the local trade association. During the campaign which will run till April 30, trade associations across the country will hold conferences, seminars, road march, trader rallies in all states. From February 15 to March 15, a mass public campaign will be launched via ‘Rath Yatra’ in each state to spread the message of the need of consolidation and strength of the trading community. The campaign will also run on social media.

Retail trade is the second largest employment providing sector in India, with nearly seven crore small businesses providing livelihood to around 45 crore people and generating an annual business of about Rs 42 lakh crore. There are more than 40,000 Trade Federations and Associations in India. CAIT aims to connect with more than three crore traders directly or indirectly during the campaign and percolate the message to the entire seven crore small businesses.

A single business establishment is capable of influencing about 50 voters without much labour. Each trader has minimum two votes, on an average each shop has two employees which add another four votes besides other adults in the family. Further, traders can influence relatives and customers. An average shop in a city sees about 20 customers daily with 70-odd percent estimated to be new customers.

The CAIT will also set in motion a ‘whisper campaign’ wherein traders will be guided to communicate to customers and others by word of mouth the good or bad about any government or political party as per the decision of the local Trade Association affiliated to CAIT.

Significance of the move

CAIT is gearing up for the cause, and in the wake of the forthcoming Union Budget, CAIT sent a memorandum to PM Shri Narendra Modi seeking a package for small businesses in India to ensure ease of doing business and to provide better business opportunities for small traders; it has urged the PM to declare the package either before Budget or include it in the Budget.

Kajal Anand informs that in CAIT memorandum, the association has demanded that manufacturers and traders registered under GST be given an Accidental Insurance of Rs 10 lakh, as practiced in Uttar Pradesh. To upgrade and modernise the existing businesses of traders, a subsidy should be given to them to purchase computers and allied goods. Thus far, only 35 percent small businesses are computerised.

Battling the difficult times 

According to Kajal Anand, the onslaught of the large e-commerce players threatens the very existence of small cosmetics retailers as well as the domestic manufacturers. The special package may provide some relief given the difficult times that traders have been battling at the moment.

In the memo, CAIT has further urged for a national trade policy for retail trade and a separate ministry for internal trade, including setting up a retail regulatory authority. The long awaited e-commerce policy should be implemented immediately and a regulatory authority set up to monitor and regulate e-commerce business in India. The Government should assist manufacturers and traders in launching a transparent e-commerce portal and establish a Trade Promotion Council. Adoption of digital payments should be encouraged by removing bank charges, and offering tax benefits and other incentives.

Financial support needed 

That manufacturers and traders be given loans by banks at concessional rate of interest is another ask. A nationwide survey gathering financial and social status of the retail sector should be done. At present, 95 percent of small businesses borrow from moneylenders, relatives, and other private sources. Direct lending by banks under MUDRA scheme should be disbanded and non-banking finance companies, micro-finance institutions, and private moneylenders duly registered should be roped in; banks should lend money at concessional rate of interest to these institutions.

Encouraging women entrepreneurs 

The memo asks for a special scheme for encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs. Other demands include forming a Model Tenancy Act given increasing litigations between landlords and tenants; a Pension Scheme for small manufacturers and traders registered under GST; simplifying GST; abolishing Mandi Tax across India and Toll Tax in Jammu as a part of One Nation-One Tax declaration; re-visiting items placed under different tax slabs; items used as raw material and daily use items of poor section should be placed under 5 percent tax slab, and so on.

Recently, CAIT objected the proposed takeover of supermarket store chain ‘More’ by Amazon (as reported in Outlook India), and has urged commerce minister Suresh Prabhu to order a probe into Witzig-Amazon bid to acquire Aditya Birla Retail Ltd. In a statement, CAIT alleged “it is a clear case of circumventing the FDI Policy in e-commerce and paving the way for others to follow.”

According to the revised policy on FDI in online retail, online retailers have to offer equal services or facilities to all its vendors without discrimination. Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart have sought extension of the February 1 deadline for revised FDI norms compliance. The revised norms are aimed at protecting the interests of domestic players — a move welcomed by the CAIT.