India faces general strike September 20

Posted Sep 19, 2012 by Ken Hanly
Many Indian shopkeepers, traders, and truck drivers will join with trade union members in a general strike after the government announced reforms intended to revive India's slowing economy
Indian PM Manmohan Singh
Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India
Photo by markhillary
The reforms promoted by the government include allowing foreign supermarkets such as Walmart to operate in India. However there is also opposition to changes in fuel and diesel prices. The All India Motor Transport Congress will be starting a 24 hour strike at the same time as the general strike is slated to begin. The secretary-general of the AIMTC said:
"It is a token protest so far. In 20 days, we will have another meeting in the capital where we will decide the future action. We are asking either for a roll back of the hike or a reduction in state and central taxes to offset the hike." Only about 75 trucks will be off the roads on Thursday.
The Confederations of All India Traders (CAIT) has predicted that 50 million people will protest across India. Large demonstrations are planned in New Delhi, the capital, and other large cities. Small business owners and workers fear that foreign large scale supermarkets will drive them out of business and lead to job losses. CAIT secretary-general Praveen Khandelwal said:"Multinational companies will destroy the economic and social fabric of the country and will adversely impact traders, transporters, farmers and other sections of retail trade..My business will suffer very much. People are going to go to big stores because they can get everything in one place"
The coalition government of Moammar Singh has lost a key coalition partner as a result of anger at government reforms. Trader Deepak Sethi whose shop has been open 45 years said:
"These big companies can attract customers by selling at cost prices. That means people here are going to lose jobs. Shops like ours will be hit the most."
Singh claims along with many leaders in industry that Indian consumers would be better served by a modern retail system and that new jobs would be created. However, the government also faces corruption scandals and may have difficulty pushing through unpopular reforms before elections in 2014. A recent 12 per cent hike in fuel prices has sparked many protests. The fuel price is subsidized at present. The government wants to cut the subsidy to help reduce the government deficit but the move is quite unpopular.