India Strike Takes Hold of Country

REUTERS/Ahmad MasoodMan in India

Much of India was at a virtual standstill yesterday as nationwide protests shut down local business and stifled traffic and transportation ways from New Delhi to Bangalore all in response to new economic reforms that were announced last week aimed at reviving India's sputtering economy.

The protesters organized to show their displeasure with government reforms that call for a 14 percent increase in the tax of diesel as well as opening opportunities to foreign retail chains.

Much of rhetoric denouncing the reforms and many of the demonstrations were organized by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) its supporters and smaller parties on both the left and right who are skeptical that the proposed reforms would do little to benefit the majority of Indians.

Many Indian's fear that letting in large multi-national companies would force many small and rural business owners to close while also breaking apart the social identity of the Indian people.

"If we don't protest now, the central government will eliminate the poor and middle-class families," protester, Santi Barik in Bhubaneswar, told the Times of India.

To add to the volatile situation the main party supporting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Trinamool Congress party, has publically come out against the reforms and has threatened to pull out of the coalition if the proposals are not immediately reversed.

While this has some politicians uneasy over the possibility of holding early elections, many economists in India warn of mixing a brewing political firestorm with economic policy.

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) urged the Prime Minster not give in to the current political pressure that is being applied and instead do what is in the best interest of growing the Indian economy.

"It is not often that bold measures are announced to take economic reforms…CII is hopeful that parties across the political spectrum of the country would work to ensure that the economic reforms that are necessary for India are carried out." Adi Godrej, President of the CII, said in a statement.

Adding: "Good economics seldom makes for good politics."