Widespread strikes and protests greet invitation to foreign retailers

Widespread strikes and protests greet invitation to foreign retailers

Date    September 22, 2012
Angry demonstrators disrupted trains and forced some shops and schools to close in a partly successful national strike protesting a government decision to cut fuel subsidies and open India's huge retail market to foreign companies.Disrupting trains, closing schools and shutting up shop … angry demonstrators pull off a national strike protesting a government decision to cut fuel subsidies and open India’s huge retail market to foreign companies. Photo: AP

DELHI: Shopkeepers across India shut their stores and many took to the streets to protest against the government’s recent decision to allow in foreign retailers such as Walmart and Tesco.

Traders and political activists blocked roads and climbed on trains on as part of a national strike on Thursday, holding up anti-Walmart posters and demanding that the government ”Take it back”.

Several politicians, including one whose party supports the coalition government of the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said welcoming Walmart would destroy the small neighbourhood shops that are the backbone of Indian retailing.

”The government is lying that companies like Walmart will generate millions of jobs in India. What about the 50 million small traders and shopkeepers who will be ruined?” said Murli Manohar Joshi, an MP with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, echoing arguments that have been made in American cities again the mega-retailer.

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”Most of Walmart’s goods are made by Chinese companies,” Mr Joshi said. ”This decision will mean that Chinese goods will enter India through the back door. It will not benefit Indians.”

On Tuesday, a key member of Dr Singh’s coalition withdrew from the government over the decision.

The government backed down from allowing foreign supermarkets last year in the face of similar opposition, but it says it will not do so again.

Dr Singh has been widely castigated for failing to push through reforms that the private sector says it desperately needs and for presiding over a sharp economic slowdown.

The Washington Post

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