The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) demanded a complete overhaul of retail trade of India in a communication sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The body listed some of the core and critical issues, including the need for an immediate e-commerce policy; incentives and encouragement to digital payments; accidental insurance of traders, a national trade policy for retail trade and a Ministry of Internal Trade, besides other issues.

Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, CAIT, in his communication, said that the current e-commerce business in the country was greatly vitiated by online companies by indulging into predatory pricing, deep discounting and loss funding, thereby creating an uneven level playing field and influencing the pricing, which is against the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy 2016 Press Note Number 3 of the government.

There are no rules and regulations for e-commerce companies. Therefore, there is an urgent need of an e-commerce policy by the government and the formation of a regulatory authority to monitor and regulate the e-commerce business in the country and to create a level playing field.

It is also suggested that in association with trade associations, the government should launch an e-commerce portal where traders are encouraged to do their business. Such portals will be transparent and traders will certainly like to be associated with such portal.

In line of the Prime Minister’s initiative for the adoption of digital payments, serious efforts are needed for the faster adoption and acceptance of digital payments across the country.

Therefore, the charges levied by the banks in digital transactions being one of the major deterrent in its adoption, the bank charges should not be levied either on traders or consumers and it should be directly subsidised by the Government to banks.

On the same side, relaxation in taxes should also be given to those traders who will do most of their business with digital transactions.

Khandelwal also suggested that National Payment Council of India (NPCI) should be made the owner of Rupay card and should be asked to ensure greater penetration of Rupay all over the country.

An independent regulator should be formed to regulate digital transactions. A Digital Payment Promotion Board may also be set up with all stakeholders to ensure that more and more people should use digital payments in order to make India a less cash nation.

Khandelwal urged that on the pattern of Uttar Pradesh, the traders registered with GST should be given an accidental insurance of Rs 10 lakh by the government. Earlier in Uttar Pradesh, the Akhilesh Yadav government initiated this accidental insurance policy, but for Rs 5 lakh only. However, the present BJP government in the state has enhanced it to Rs 10 lakh.

A special policy should also be formulated to provide compensation to traders affected by any natural calamity. It was also suggested that some percentage of the tax deposited by the traders should be kept reserved for giving pension to them after they attained the age of 60.

Khandelwal said that the tagline of the Mudra Yojna was Funding for Non-Funded, though the real beneficiaries were facing several problems in obtaining Mudra loans. CAIT suggested that as per declaration of the Prime Minister, non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), micro-finance institutions (MFIs), etc. should be made the last channel to offer lending to actual borrower, and banks should be asked to lend money to these institutions. It was further suggested that trade associations across the country should be associated for the disbursement of the Mudra loan for its effective implementation.

Arguing strongly for a policy for retail trade, CAIT said that retail trade was one of the most important sectors of the Indian economy with an annual turnover of over Rs 40 lakh crore.

It is the only sector of the economy which does not have either a policy or a separate ministry. It is suggested that a National Trade Policy for Retail Trade should be formulated and a separate Ministry of Internal Trade be formed to act as a single window to look after the interests of retail trade in the country.

Despite the intention of the government to have only one tax (i e Goods and Services Tax [GST]) all over the country, a toll tax is still being imposed in Jammu and Kashmir, which is against the spirit of GST. It was suggested that toll tax levied in the northern state be withdrawn, and Mandi Tax levied by various states in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) and other mandis should also be scrapped.

With the rapid changes at global level in conducting business and also with the greater usage of modern technology, it is all the most more essential that existing Indian retail trade should be upgraded and modernised to meet the domestic and global challenges.

It is to be noted that so far only 35 per cent of traders across the country have been able to adopt computerisation. There is a need to make all traders enable to adopt computer technology.

In this context, it is suggested that a subsidy should be given to traders those who want to adopt computerisation and also wish to upgrade their business. Such a step will eliminate the black economy and more and more people will come into the tax net.

For better implementation of taxation systems and government schemes and to ensure harmonised relations between traders and government authorities, it was suggested that joint committees be formed at the district level with representatives of traders and officials of different government departments. Such committees will maintain a good business environment in the respective district with mutual cooperation between traders and government authorities.

CAIT also urged the Prime Minister to redefine the credit norms for small businesses, put in place better infrastructure facilities in commercial markets, augment the safety and security of traders and commercial markets with help of trade associations, take foodgrains and essential items out from commodity exchanges and pass the Consumer Protection Act in the Parliament immediately.