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Indian to probe Walmart’s lobbying

The Indian government on Wednesday ordered a probe into the spending on lobbying by US retail giant Walmart Stores Inc to facilitate its entry into India.

The firm recently disclosed that it spent close to 25 million dollars on lobbying activities, including on the issues related to “enhanced market access for investment in India,” according to a report by the Press Trust of India news agency.

The development triggered a new controversy in India, coming after parliament last week approved allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country's supermarket sector amid much opposition.

“The government will appoint a retired judge to hold a time-bound inquiry into the media reports regarding Walmart,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath announced in the Lok Sabha or lower house of parliament.

The government's decision came after opposition lawmakers repeatedly staged protests in parliament over the past two days, demanding a probe into the matter. Opposition members have alleged that the government was “bribed” by lobbyists hired by Walmart.

Walmart has denied the allegations, saying money on lobbying was spent in US, and not in India, where lobbying is illegal.

“The allegation that a routine US lobbying disclosure form reflects improper conduct on our part in India, is false,” Walmart said in a statement.

“This disclosure has nothing to do with political or governmental contacts with India government officials,” it said.

Opposition parties said the move to open up retail markets would hurt manufacturing and threaten the livelihoods of millions of small store owners. The government maintains that the reform would promote economic growth and create jobs. - Sapa-dpa

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