Mass strikes hit India over fuel price hike


Members from the All India Youth Federation (AIYF) and All India Students Federation (AISF) shout anti-government slogans and pull a rope tied to a car during a protest against petrol price hikes in New Delhi on May 25, 2012. Indian state-run oil firms announced the sharpest hike in petrol prices in nearly a decade to offset growing losses caused by subsidised rates, rises in the international oil price and a plunging rupee.

A nationwide strike called by opposition parties in India in protest against rising petrol prices has closed shops and disrupted public transport.

In New Delhi, where anti-government marches were held, most shops were shut and traffic was light as workers stayed home due to the lack of public transport, according to Al Jazeera.

In the commercial hub Mumbai, there were reports of buses being stoned and offices attacked, while protesters in Patna city burned effigies of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and demonstrators in Kolkata and Uttar Pradesh state blocked roads and shouted anti-government slogans.

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According to the BBC, the strike has affected attendance in government offices, factories and educational institutions. It was called after state-run oil firms hiked petrol prices by more than 11 percent or 7.54 rupees (13 US cents) a litre last week – the steepest single increase in a decade.

Oil firms say the falling rupee had made imports costlier and forced them to raise prices, but opposition parties have demanded that the increase be rolled back.

According to the Agence France Presse, the strike poses a fresh challenge to India’s government, which is already battling declining economic growth and police hold-ups in parliament.

A series of smaller petrol price increases in 2011 caused a major crisis for the government, with the second-largest party in India’s ruling coalition threatening to pull out.

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