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Traders' strike shuts down Koyambedu market

Staff Reporter

Government urged to keep big firms out of retail trade



NOW A DIFFERENT BATTLE: Workers turn the corridors of the Koyambedu market into a cricket pitch on Friday when vegetable and fruit traders shut shop. — Photo: K. Pichumani

Chennai : The sprawling Koyambedu wholesale market shut down on Friday as vegetable, fruit and flower traders struck work protesting the entry of multinational companies into retail trade.

Wholesale merchants from Koyambedu, retail traders from neighbouring and suburban markets, including Tambaram, Ambattur and Avadi, also participated in a protest fast. They said their business had dropped by 40 per cent after the entry of the Reliance chain of fresh food stores.

"The State government must protect the livelihood of lakhs of small traders. It should bring legislation to prevent multinational and foreign companies from entering retail trade," said G. D. Rajasekaran, president, Protection Committee of Koyambedu Commercial Complex Trade Associations.

PMK MLA A.K. Moorthy launched the fast. AIADMK Presidium Chairman E. Madhusudhanan and CITU State General Secretary A. Soundararajan expressed solidarity with the agitation.

Mr. Soundararajan said Communist Party of India (Marxist) had urged the Congress not to allow foreign direct investment in retail trade, as it would push small traders out of business. Just as the government offered protection for sectors such as handloom, retail trade in basic commodities must be protected, he said. Consumers across the city, however, were able to purchase vegetables and fruits, as the local stores remained open. For the labourers and others dependent on the market for livelihood, the protest meant loss of the day's earning and some time to play cricket.

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