Business, Economics and Jobs

Petrol price strike: India is officially closed


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.

India is officially closed

India's opposition parties called for a nationwide general strike Thursday to protest against the government's move to increase petrol prices, so the country is officially closed.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) will come together in the nationwide protest, the Times of India reported. Markets may remain shut and autos and taxis might remain off the roads.

In past general strikes, party workers have clashed with government forces, drivers and shopkeepers who attempt to defy the edict to shut shop.

"We want to ensure that every major road has police presence. We are aware of a few protest spots and have the resources to rush in to control any situation. We warn people not to flout the law; those found rioting will be charged with destruction of public property," said a senior officer in New Delhi, according to the paper.

The paper said that local traders' associations have decided to support the strike.

"We have to stand together. This government has become arrogant and is not concerned about the people, who are suffering. Everything — from food items to gadgets— has become expensive. Still there is no stopping the government from increasing the prices of petrol and CNG. In Delhi, CNG is going to be the main issue," the paper quoted Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of Confederation of All India Traders, as saying.

As GlobalPost reported earlier, Manmohan Singh moved to hike petrol prices by the largest jump ever in a bid to rein in the plunging rupee. Because the government subsidizes fuel prices, the hike will reduce the budget deficit. However, the protests mean it will be difficult to tack on an increase in diesel prices – which would make a bigger dent in the deficit but also have a more direct impact on inflation.

Meanwhile, the rupee drifted back down toward the record low of 56.4 against the dollar in trading Wednesday, crossing 56.2 against the dollar.