Monday, July 5, 2010

Nation-wide strike in India

India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party activists shout slogans from inside a bus after being detained during a protest. -- PHOTO: AP

NEW DELHI - POLICE came out in force in cities across India on Monday for an opposition-led national strike over fuel price rises that disrupted flights and train services, and closed schools and businesses.

The strike was called by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and leftist parties in a concerted show of strength against the Congress-led government's reform programme, disrupting normal life in a large number of states.

In New Delhi, the government said it would not be bullied into reneging on reform promises, and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee insisted there was 'no question' of rolling back on the fuel price hikes.

The government scrapped petrol subsidies last month and announced an across-the-board rise in the price of other fuels as a key part of its strategy to rein in a yawning fiscal deficit. The inflationary knock-on effect of the increases is an issue that India's fractured opposition can unite over, given simmering popular concern over steep rises in the cost of living.

The strike was widely observed in Indian's financial capital, Mumbai, where police had rounded up 1,000 'trouble-makers' on Sunday in a pre-emptive move to prevent any large-scale unrest. Flights to and from Mumbai airport were severely disrupted, with domestic airlines cancelling 45 departures and 39 arrivals.

The city's taxis were mostly off the streets, while most schools, colleges and businesses closed down, with some shopkeepers voicing concerns that the right-wing Shiv Sena party would use violence to enforce the strike call. -- AFP

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