WHOLE SWATHES of India were shut down today as thousands of protesters took to the streets nationwide to oppose rising fuel prices and the economic policies of the ruling BJP.
The demonstrations were called by the country’s left parties, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which mobilised activists across most Indian states.
Fuel prices have rocketed to record levels in India while the value of the rupee continues to fall, generating anger at the government’s mismanagement of the economy.
Trade unions joined the protests, warning of the burden falling on the country’s “farmers, lorry drivers and ordinary people” due to the rising price of petrol.
A statement by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions called on all its members to join the demonstrations against the “unprecedented economic burden being imposed by the BJP-led Modi government on the people.”
All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) general secretary Naveen Kumar Gupta explained: “Sixty per cent of our work is heavily reliant on fuel. Because of the government’s taxation policy, we are being forced to live in losses.”
A heavy-handed response by police in Chennai saw CPI (M) state secretary K Balakrishnan and CPI state secretary R Mutharasan taken into preventive custody.
Speaking at a rally in Delhi, party general secretary Sitaram Yechury said: “Just a few cronies benefit from this government’s policies. It steamrollers ordinary Indians, who suffer under fuel prices surging every day.
“Oil price hikes of this order will raise prices of everything.”
The CPI (M) warned that the government’s “anti-people” economic policies were pushing people into hardship and creating “huge job losses.”
Large demonstrations caused a virtually total shutdown of economic activity in states such Kerala — except for exempted flood rehabilitation and relief activities — Karnataka, Punjab, Bihar, Maharashtra, Puducherry and Jammu and Kashmir.
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