Several cities in India have experienced disruption of traffic and other services after opposition parties called for a nationwide strike on Monday to protest against the government's decision to increase fuel prices.
Stranded passengers wait at a railway station in Gauhati during a nationwide strike
Several incidents of violence were reported as opposition workers set fire to buses and prevented people from going to work. Nearly 100 domestic flights and several trains from Mumbai and Kolkata were cancelled.
The strike was called by two opposition groups, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the communist parties acting separately. As a result, states where these parties have a stronghold were almost brought to a standstill with businesses in other states functioning normally.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj has accused the government of being insensitive to common man's woes
Party supporters create havoc
Party workers in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar in the east and Kerala in the south vandalized stores and blocked roads. Nearly 150 buses in Mumbai are reported to have been damaged during the protests. In the national capital, New Delhi, BJP supporters put up road blocks at key intersections and tried to stop people from going to work. Dozens of party workers were injured in clashes in Lucknow while protestors in Bihar attacked rail commuters.
The strike also affected Bangalore, India's IT hub, where many firms were forced to remain closed in the wake of the protests. According to news channels, the one day strike has cost the country more than 600 million dollars.
Communist Party of India supporters are dragged away by the police at a protest in New Delhi
Government insists on price hike
Last week, the government of India decided to hike fuel prices by Rs. 3.50 ($ 0.8) a liter for petrol and Rs. 2 ($0.4) a liter for diesel. Kerosene prices have also been increased by Rs.3 ($0.6). The government has refused to roll back the fuel price hike and has said that fuel costs will now be tied to prices in the international market.
Opposition parties have criticized the measures, calling them 'anti-people'. The hike is likely to increase the country's inflation rate by 1 percentage point to about 11 per cent. The decision, taken on June 25, was aimed at ending government subsidies on fuel which make up nearly one per cent of the country's GDP. It is assumed that the move will help reduce the country's budget deficit, which is expected to hit 5.5 per cent of the GDP in 2010/2011.
Editor: Grahame Lucas