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   Slam-dunking Walmart
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
28 Oct 2012
of Walmart that we all have dreamt about and then there is Walmart that we seemingly dread. Between dream and reality there is swathe of controversies that reach people’s doorsteps much before the retail store opens in any locality. The world shares a love-hate relationship with the biggest retail chain, and yet it keeps on going and growing.

Ironically, the retail chain store has been opposed tooth and nail in the country of its origin. Across the US, communities have fought their way to resist the opening of Walmart store in their neighbourhood. Citizens have opposed the sprawl of Walmart stores for two compelling reasons: its negative impact on local economy and its adverse influence on their quality of life. Al Norman, who has been on the forefront of anti-sprawl activism and is the founder of the organization Sprawl-Busters, has chronicled the vulnerability of the retail major to community backlash in several cities in the US.

In India, the government is hoping to bail out a stressed economy through foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. Against available international evidence to the contrary, the government has made audacious claims that 'retail therapy' will fix the unemployment crises by generating over 100 million jobs. Hidden beneath such tall promises, Norman elucidates, are hidden costs that will eventually get borne by the communities only. With Walmart having announced its plan to fan across the country within a year’s time, it is for the communities to see the dark side of growth behind the gloss.

Stories of resistance in the book have clearly observed that educated and activated consumers remain a dispersed force to begin with. Simply put, they view themselves as 'beneficiaries' first. It is only when they view the flip side of growth that they realise that 'if you don't define growth, it will define you'. It is an inspiring book that details out how community interests must be kept safe with campaigns that can go the distance. The longer the anti-sprawl campaign lasts its message gets retained by the community that much longer. The Indian edition is a timely publication of Al Norman's work, a must read for those who are yet to make up their mind on the market-made calamity that, in the name of growth, will soon be upon the consumers and the communities alike.

Slam-dunking Walmart
by Al Norman
Banyan Tree, Indore
280 pages, Rs.400

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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