India Business
Fernandes takes up cause against Reliance Fresh stores
May 14, 2007 - 6:02:12 PM

Ranchi, May 14 - Attacks on the three Reliance Fresh stores here took a new twist Monday when former defence minister George Fernandes came in support of the protesting vegetable vendors.

As authorities promulgated prohibitory order in the area and beefed up security around the Reliance Fresh stores, Fernandes, who is leader of the Janata Dal- and has always been an activist against multinationals, arrived and vowed to fight what he termed as 'injustice' being meted out to the vendors.

'I have come here to fight against injustice done with the vegetables vendors,' Fernandes told reporters at Ranchi airport. 'I will meet the vegetables vendors and take stock of the situation.'

But residents of Ranchi purchased vegetables amid heavy security at the stores of Reliance Fresh - a project promoted by Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Industries.

Nearly 20 personnel of the Jharkhand Armed Police -, wielding batons and automatic weapons, were deployed outside each of the three stores.

'It was, indeed, a different experience to buy vegetables from Reliance Fresh shops. The heavy security arrangement makes it look like we are in insurgency hit Jammu and Kashmir,' said Gautam Kumar, a consumer.

The consumers also blamed the police for the violence on Saturday.

'The district administration failed to provide security when it was needed,' said Rita Mishra, another consumer of Reliance Fresh.

Thirteen people were arrested for the violence and two policemen suspended for dereliction of duty following, which prompted the Prime Minister's Office to ask the Jharkhand administration to ensure peace and calm.

This was the second time in a week when vegetable vendors took out processions to protest the opening of Reliance stores.

The group buys the produce directly from farmers at comparatively higher prices and since middlemen are eliminated, it retails it at much lower rates compared to roadside vendors.

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