Friday, September 21, 2012

General strike in India

Millions of people in India took to the streets yesterday for a one-day nationwide strike called by several political parties against economic measures (facetiously called “reforms” by the government) announced last week. Schools & small shops were closed, buses stopped running, & protestors blocked roads & trains. This photo of protestors blocking railway tracks is from Allahabad city in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The new law, called Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), includes a substantial increase in subsidized fuel prices & a decision to open India to foreign supermarket chains like Tesco, Carrefour, & Walmart.

FDI is brazen neoliberal policy in a country which has seen millions of small farmers devastated by neoliberal policy in agriculture, allowing multinational agribusiness firms (like Monsanto & Cargill) to take over agriculture. Millions of small grocers, vegetable sellers, & street vendors selling everything from matches to clothing to hardware to crockery are at grave risk under FDI which will allow foreign retailers to own a 51% stake in a business in India. It is estimated that for every job Tesco, Carrefour, & Walmart create in India, at least 17 workers will lose employment. The government & pro-business groups promoting FDI have a whole raft of reasons why this law will be good for India by which of course, they mean profitable for themselves. There is overwhelming evidence just from the record of Walmart in the US showing the disastrous effects of these superstores on local economies & small businesses. There is really no debate necessary here; it’s a matter of contending class interests. When the government introduced these measures last November, widespread protests forced them to reverse them. Public opinion in India is against FDI & the trade unions & opposition parties are saying they will continue to strike & protest until the government backs down. That’s exactly what it will take. (Photo by Reuters)

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