Millions of Indians strike against Big Box stores


Americans have witnessed firsthand the devastating impacts of Big Box stores on local communities.

Big Boxes are devastating, destroying local businesses, replacing decent community-based full-time benefits-paying jobs with part-time work and no benefits [Wal-Mart workers are provided with food stamp applications when they get their jobs].

It was the Big Box that inflicted the first lethal blow on American community newspapers, long before the Internet delivered the coup de grace, phenomena we witnessed first-hand.

The reason: Big boxes destroyed local merchants, the advertising backbone for community papers, and were then capable of dictating their own advertising rates, further starving the papers of cash.

By the time the Internet came along, community journalism was already reeling.

As one study of Wal-Mart’s impacts on Iowa communities discovered:

[T]he average superstore cost other merchants in the host town about $12 million a year in sales (as of 1995), while stores in smaller towns nearby also suffered substantial revenue losses. These sales losses resulted in the closure of 7,326 Iowa businesses between 1983 and 1993, including 555 grocery stores, 291 apparel stores, and 298 hardware stores. While towns that gained a Wal-Mart store initially experienced a rise in overall retail sales, after the first two or three years, retail sales began to decline. About one in four towns ending up with a lower level of retail activity than they had prior to Wal-Mart’s arrival. Stone attributes this to Wal-Mart’s strategy of saturating regions with multiple stores.

The arrival of the Big Box would devastate India’s community merchants, the backbone of a venerable economic system and create immense economic and social dislocation.

First, a video report from euronews:

And the stories, first from Deutsche Welle:

A wave of strikes has hit India, with shops and businesses closing across the country. The demonstrators oppose the government’s decision to allow foreign retailers such as Walmart and Tesco to enter the Indian market.

>snip<

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the controversial reforms last week, which would allow the world’s three largest retailers – Walmart, Carrefour and Tesco – to invest in India’s supermarket sector. The reforms would also allow foreign investment in aviation and the sale of minority stakes in four state-run companies. The government has also hiked diesel fuel prices by 12 percent in a bid to reduce its budget deficit.

Schools, shops and government offices were shut in some Indian states on Thursday as protesters blocked road and rail traffic as part of a one-day nationwide strike against sweeping economic reforms announced by the government last week.

Many shops and businesses nationwide have closed to protest the reforms

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as several regional and leftist parties called the nationwide strike. Protesters demonstrated through the city of Kolkata in West Bengal state, blocking national highways and railways. Activists from the BJP and its allies also gathered at trains stations in Bihar state in north India, forcing train service there to stop.

Read the rest.

More from Al Jazeera:

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) had forecasted that 50 million people would participate in the protest, with large demonstrations planned in the capital New Delhi and scores of other cities.

Many small business owners and workers fear that the arrival of largescale supermarket chains will lead to drastic job losses as India’s supply chains and shopping habits are transformed.

“Multinational companies will destroy the economic and social fabric of the country and will adversely impact traders, transporters, farmers and other sections of retail trade,” CAIT secretary-general Praveen Khandelwal said.

Indian PM Singh has been buffeted by reaction to the retail reforms and a sharp rise in diesel prices, with a key coalition party quitting the government and demanding the policies are reversed.

“People are supporting us in this strike because they are angry at the recent decisions of the government,” said Prakash Javedkar, a spokesperson of the BJP.

“The prime minister must resign and we are pressing for this.”

Read the rest.

And this from Jatindra Dash and Ankush Arora of Reuters:

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) urged Singh not to yield to the pressure, saying the reforms, long demanded by Indian business leaders, were crucial for economic growth.

“Good economics seldom makes for good politics,” it said.

The CII said the one-day strike had cost the economy $2.3 billion in lost production and trade.

It did not say how it had arrived at the figure, but hundreds of thousands of owners of mom-and-pop “kirana” stores, who fear the retail reform will drive them out of business, were reported to have shut for the day in protest. Bigger companies gave staff the day off or allowed them to work from home.

>snip<

Across the country, morning commuters were left stranded at train stations and bus stops as protesters squatted on railway tracks and laid siege to bus depots. Supporters of the BJP and other opposition parties also burned effigies of Singh and blocked roads with burning tires.

Read the rest.

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