Central & South Asia
Fuel price strike disrupts India
Protests from an unlikely opposition alliance hit shops, schools and public transport.
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2010 03:42 GMT
Demonstrators say an end to fuel subsidies will increase inflation and make life difficult [Reuters]

A strike in protest against soaring fuel prices has grounded flights, kept lorries off the road and led to school closures in much of India.

An unlikely alliance between the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and leftist parties called Monday's action to pressure the ruling Congress party to change its economic programme.

The effects of the strike varied from state to state.

In Delhi, the national capital region, which is governed by the Congress party, there was a heavy police presence in the streets and minimal disruption.

But in Mumbai, India's financial hub, dozens of domestic flight were cancelled and the strike shut down businesses and schools.

Some shopkeepers expressed concern that the Shiv Sena, a far-right regional political party, would use violence to enforce the call, but there were no reports of any violence.

Mumbai police arrested about 1,000 "troublemakers" on Sunday in a pre-emptive move to prevent large-scale unrest.

Software firms in Bangalore closed for the strike and the airport shut down in the city of Kolkata.

Other areas including the states of West Bengal, Kerala and Bihar experienced road closures and service disruptions.

Al Jazeera's Prerna Suri, reporting from the north state of Jammu and Kashmir, said that the unlikely alliance of the right-wing opposition and leftist groups increased the effectiveness of Monday's protests.

"Opposition leaders say this [fuel price rise] will add to the country's already burgeoning inflation rates," she said.


The national lorry drivers' union said more than 600,000 vehicles would stay of the roads to express their "solidarity with the people of India, who are already suffering immensely due to [a] heavy dose of inflation which [is] going to be further aggravated by this unwarranted hike in the price of motor fuels".

The government ended petrol subsidies last month in a bid to tackle India's growing fiscal deficit, which is forecast to hit 5.5 per cent of GDP by 2010-11.

The decision was effectively a 6.7 per cent price rise, which the government said could save the state $5.2bn.

"The government claims it is working for the common man but it clearly doesn't care for them," D Raja, a leader of the Communist Party of India, said.

"Price rise is the single biggest burning issue affecting all sections of the society."

Pranab Mukherjee, the finance minister, has refused to budge on the issue, insisting that there was "no question" about resuming subsidies in the face of protests.

The opposition said that ending the subsidies would lead to higher inflation, which is already running above 10 per cent.

Diesel, used by farmers for irrigation pumps and tractors, also increased in price by five per cent last month, while the cost of kerosene rose by 33 per cent and liquefied petroleum gas by 11.2 per cent.

Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
UNHCR says hundreds of people trapped in Yaloke town risk death if they are not evacuated to safety urgently.
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Long-standing dispute over Christian use of the word 'Allah' raises concerns about a very un-Merry Christmas.
The threat posed by ISIL has prompted thousands of young Kurds to join the PKK.
Baja California - with its own grim history of disappeared people - finds a voice in the fight against violence.
Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 - the world's largest per capita prison population after the US.
Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.