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Strike Erupts in India as Economic Reforms Pit Small Business Vs. Retail Giants

“The government is lying that companies like Wal-Mart will generate millions of jobs in India": lawmaker with opposition Bharatiya Janata Party

Common Dreams staff

Samajwadi Party activists hold an effigy representing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues before burning it during a protest along railway tracks in Allahabad, India, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Placard reads "Take Walmart back." (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Protesters have filled streets across India on Thursday as many shops shut down in a 24-hour strike against federal reforms that allow in foreign retail giants like Wal-mart, Carrefour and Tesco and that protesters say spell doom for their small businesses.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the reforms on Friday in a purported effort to revive the economy, which, as the Washington Post explains, "let foreign investors own 51 percent of supermarket chains they set up with a local Indian partner." CNN adds that "Multinational retailers already have outlets in India, but at present they can sell only to smaller retailers. This decision allows them to sell directly to Indian consumers."

The backlash from the reforms from small store owners in India echoes that of "Main Street" shops in the U.S., who said mega-retailers like Wal-Mart in their communities would drive down prices and drive them out of business.

“The government is lying that companies like Wal-Mart will generate millions of jobs in India. What about the 50 million small traders and shopkeepers who will be ruined?” said Murli Manohar Joshi, a senior lawmaker with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, the Washington Post reports.

"These multinationals will ruin millions of small traders," adds Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders, which led demonstrations in New Delhi, according to CNN.

Khandelwal stated bluntly, "Multinational companies will destroy the economic and social fabric of the country," Agence France-Presse reports.

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