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National strike against fuel prices stops India

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Steve Chiotakis: On the other side of the globe, a day-long strike is taking place in India against high fuel prices. Last month, the government scrapped fuel subsidies and increased prices in an attempt to cut its budget deficit. But opposition parties who’ve called the strike say it’s going to lead to high inflation. The BBC’s Rahul Tandon is with us from Calcutta, and he’s in the Indian city right now. Hi Rahul.

Rahul Tandon: Hey Steve, how are you?

Chiotakis: I’m doing well. Where are you right now?

Tandon: I am near what would normally be a very, very busy road. You normally wouldn’t be able to hear me, but because of the strike, there’s no cars, there’s no buses, there’s nothing on the streets — even the animals have gone home for the day. But in front of me, there are a few workers, because there may be a strike but they get paid a daily wage — they’re the poorest of the poor, if they don’t work, they don’t get to eat, so they’ve had to break the strike.

Chiotakis: And things sound pretty calm over there, Rahul. Has there been much chaos caused by the strike?

Tandon: There has been across India. This is a country of more than a billion people. Imagine in the states, if all your major cities for a day had no schools, no cinemas, no shops, everything was shut down, times that by four, a billion people have been trying to struggle to get to work, most of them have given up. There’s been some violence. India has been paralyzed.

Chiotakis: And very quickly Rahul, how badly have people been affected by these fuel price increases?

Tandon: Very badly affected indeed. You know, they’ve gone up by about 8 to 9 percent, that means that all commodities have gone up. I’ve been speaking to some people here in Calcutta and asking them: Do they think the strike is the way forward?

Indian Citizen #1: I think it’s a really outdated way of protesting now, actually.

Indian Citizen #2 It stopped the city, it made the city go to a standstill, which is absolutely catastrophic for Calcutta. It’s very idiotic.

Indian Citizen #3: I’m very upset of many things which has gone up, but at the same time I could say I don’t quite think that the bulk is an answer to this.

The government says there’s little they can do. They need to cut the deficit, you’ve heard about that in the states. Expect more strikes, more chaos in the world’s biggest democracy.

Chiotakis: The BBC’s Rahul Tandon reporting for us from Calcutta for Marketplace. Thank you, sir.

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