A nationwide general strike is underway in India over far-reaching reforms of the country’s retail sector.
The government plans to open the market to foreign investors which it says is essential to help India grow into a fully-fledged first world economy.
Opposition parties and trade unions say the giant western hypermarkets Walmart, Carrefour and Tesco are ready to steamroller their way into India.
Small shopkeepers worry that they’ll go out of business. Protester Arun Kumar Mishra explained why he was taking part in Thursday’s strike:
“The left-leaning parties will continue their fight because of the government’s decision to introduce Foreign Direct Investment into the retail sector and increase the price of fuel.
“Reforms of the public sector are also taking place. The government took the decision on its own by passing an executive order, the parliament was not even functioning.”
The price of diesel has gone up 14 percent in the past few days. The shock price rise follows several years of high inflation for basic food items and cooking gas.
Unions estimate that 50 million people are taking take part in today’s action and tens of thousands of shopkeepers have left their stores locked up for the day.