Cabinet approves first retail policy for Maharashtra

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In a major boost to the retail sector in Maharashtra, the cabinet has approved the first such retail policy for the state. The policy aims at creating retail entertainment zones, granting additional FSI for the retail sector and provision of separate retail zones in development plans of cities and regions to energise organised retail, which has immense investment and employment opportunities.

It will also bring food and grocery retailers under the Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1968, to prevent them from going on strike and ensure that consumers can get vegetables and groceries at cheaper rates by allowing farmers to sell their produce directly to them bypassing Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs).
It will ensure ease of business for retailers through a single-window system, online registration for permissions, relaxing labour rules regarding working hours and shifts and elimination of inspector raj to promote employment and attract investment even in backward regions.

The policy, the second such sectoral policy by the state industries department after the IT/ ITES one, also eases work timings for women and operation timings for shops and establishments and seeks to boost the sector, which is being fueled by the aspirational demand of the emerging middle class even in tier-II and tier-III cities. The growth in retailing will also fuel the demand for commercial real estate.

The state government will formally unveil the policy during the ‘Make in India’ week to be held in February in Mumbai. Officials said the retail sector has immense employment creation potential, even for people who are less educated and, hence, unable to find jobs in the skilled or services sector.

Some features include appointment of a nodal officer by the government for creating a single-window system, loosening stocking limits under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, developing human resources, and enabling retail establishments to procure power through open access.

“The policy aims at attracting modern retail and investment in the sector,” Maharashtra industries minister Subhash Desai told dna. “This will create employment opportunities and promote entrepreneurship. Women have a good opportunity in retail. This will also add value for farmers and strengthen them,” he added.

Desai said some states like Andhra Pradesh had also come out with a policy for the retail sector and that stakeholders and organisations had approached them for formulating a similar policy in Maharashtra.

“Online registration will be allowed for (permissions) like under the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments Act, 1948, and for VAT. We have reduced inspector raj for industries and, here too, we have provided that no visits will be made by flying squads to nitpick on mistakes. However, inspections will happen in case of complaints,” said Desai, adding that relaxations in rules will be provided, such as allowing women to work in retail shops till 10pm and permitting shops and establishments to stay open till 11pm.

“Farmers won’t have to go to the APMCs if they want to sell their produce to the consumers,” said Desai, adding that shops and establishments selling perishable goods would be included in the list of essential services, making it tough for them to go on strike and preventing losses to farmers.
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According to the investment and technology promotion division of the union ministry of external affairs, the retail sector accounts for over 10% of the country’s GDP and around 8% of the employment in India. The country is today the fifth largest global destination in the world for retail.

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