ACORN India has an impressive range of victories. The India FDI Watch has used the power of mass mobilization, coupled with an effective media strategy, to raise the profile of the issue of Wal-Mart’s entry into India.
In November, 2006, the campaign mobilized hundreds of hawkers, street vendors and social activists to warn the government not to allow FDI in retail sector. In January 2007, the Chairperson of the ruling alliance UPA, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, publicly warned the Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh about the dangers posed to the economy and to communities by allowing multi- national companies to grow rapidly and without regulation across India.
In February 2007, upon the arrival of a senior Wal-Mart executive to India to sign a deal with Bharti, the India FDI Watch campaign organized press conferences and public demonstrations in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. As a result of these demonstrations, Sonia Gandhi refused to meet with the executive in Delhi. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) responded to the campaign by recommending that Wal-Mart’s entry be delayed until a Special Task Force of interest groups, including unbiased academic institutions, has had the chance to study the issue.
The campaign gained a lot of strength in spring 2007. In April 2007 FDI India watch and its partners staged the National Convention to Resist Corporate Hijack of Retail in Delhi. At this Convention and later meetings, the plan to form a National Steering Committee was agreed upon and later implemented. The movement was given a name: “National Movement for Retail Democracy.”
In 2007, we also collaborated with research organizations and academic institutions on a case study that qualitatively and quantitatively documented how large retailers and malls had already harmed the sales of surrounding small businesses and hawkers in Mumbai, which was published in the journal “Economic and Political Weekly.” Finally, we supported the research of a Mumbai academic documenting the working conditions and wages of workers in the enterprises of Indian suppliers to Wal-Mart.
In 2008, the campaign has gained more visibility. It has reached out to and collaborated with other international organizations working on issues of development in India.
In spring 2008 Mr. Dharmendra Kumar, the director of India FDI Watch, was invited to speak to the British All Parliamentary Group in London, England.
On 1st May 2008, on the occasion of Workers Day, in a march of rag pickers to the Delhi state assembly, 400 of our member rag pickers participated.
On 29th September 2008, hundreds of hawkers under the banner of National Hawkers Federation, a national partner of India FDI Watch, held a demonstration in front of the Metro Shop in Kolkata. The shop is yet to become operational.
ACORN India recently started organizing in the Dharavi squatter community in Mumbai. Dharavi is Asia’s largest slum where some of the largest recycling units of Mumbai are located. ACORN India has recently embarked upon two campaigns in Mumbai called the Dharavi Project and Waste Matters. The main goal of the initiave is to raise awareness about the plights of rag pickers and to generate funds to work towards the redressal. As part of the Dharavi Project, a documentary will be filmed which will be distributed in four languages in schools and colleges. One of Bollywood’s (Indian film industry’s) top music trio will do a music video for ACORN India about its work among the Rag pickers. The trio will also do a show in Mumbai on January 13th, 2009, the proceeds of which will go towards setting up an organization for the Rag pickers. The Dharavi project will bring in artists, school students and architecture students in direct interaction with the rag picker community.
ACORN India has also successfully developed a partnership with Action Aid. Action Aid is funding ACORN India for a three-month (Oct to Dec) research on Hawkers and small retailers in five cities across India.
ACORN India in the process of forming Hawkers’ union in Mumbai. Under the banner of the Hawkers Union ACORN India recently organized a well-attended meeting in Mumbai.