India strikes over supermarket reforms
Opposition parties and trade unions in India have staged a day-long strike over plans to open the country’s retail sector to global supermarket chains.
Calcutta and Bangalore were virtually shut down, but the response in other parts of the country was mixed.
The reforms, which ministers say are needed to revive the economy, were formally introduced on Thursday.
But small shops fear they will be put out of business and many people are angry at recent fuel price rises.
Earlier in the week a key ally left the governing coalition in protest, although its majority in parliament is not at immediate risk.
The Congress-led government attempted to introduce the retail reforms last year, but backed down in the face of opposition.
Thursday’s nationwide strike, called by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its allies and Communist parties, shut down schools, businesses and public transport in many cities.
TV channels showed protests taking place in the cities of Patna, Allahabad and Varanasi in northern India.
Most businesses were shut in the eastern city of Calcutta and public transport was disrupted, reports said.
The impact of the strike was near-total in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal (United) parties supported the protest.
In the two states, protesters held noisy demonstrations where they burnt colourful effigies of PM Manmohan Singh and blocked railway tracks.
The southern state of Karnataka, which is governed by the BJP, was shut down in response to the strike call, with buses off the roads and schools, hotels and businesses closed.
The state capital, Bangalore – home to hundreds of IT companies including multinationals like IBM and Microsoft – was completely shut down.
“We have asked our employees to stay back at home. We will instead work on Saturday,” an official of Infosys, one of India’s leading software companies, said.
“The fear factor is the reason for the closure,” a spokesperson for another multinational company told the BBC.
The government also announced a 14% rise in the price of diesel, which is heavily subsidised in India. That move has also prompted great anger across the country.
Under the government’s proposal, global firms – such as Walmart and Tesco – will be able to buy up to a 51% stake in multi-brand retailers in India.
Multinational retailers already have outlets in India, but at present they can sell only to smaller retailers. This decision allows them to sell directly to Indian consumers.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said the reforms would “help strengthen our growth process and generate employment in these difficult times”.
they dont want Walmart or Tesco..cant blame them..but this is what yo get when you become globalized india..no point protesting..you wont stop it..