Many Reliance Industries’ retail stores and a giant Walmart outlet are facing revenue losses of millions of dollars after being forced to shut for more than three months over protests against new farm laws, sources said.
Fears of farmers’ agitation in Punjab, home to many protest leaders, have stoked companies’ fears over vandalism and the safety of employees, prompting the closure of dozens of shops, store employees and industry sources said.
One industry source said the estimated losses for Reliance from its state-wide shutdowns run into millions of dollars. Two other sources said Walmart’s estimated revenue loss from its store, one of 29 such outlets nationwide, has crossed $8 million.
“The farmers camp outside the Walmart store daily, they don’t let anybody go in,” said one of the sources. Thousands of items in the store are gathering dust and have passed their use-by date.
An official in Punjab said authorities were ready to provide security but could do little if companies had decided to keep their stores shut.
For their part, farmer unions have vowed to continue the protests and block stores from opening, even as the Supreme Court this week ordered a temporary suspension of the farm laws as it sets up a panel to examine their complaints.
The government says the laws passed in September will boost farmers’ incomes by letting them deal directly with big companies and bypass government-regulated wholesale markets.
But many of the unions disagree, saying they risk losing their bargaining power and become vulnerable to potential bulk buyers such as Walmart and Reliance.
They fear the eventual disappearance of the guaranteed prices the government pays for their grain.