June 5th, 2008
11:42 AM GMT
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CALCUTTA, India – I am in Calcutta, India, the city I grew up in and still call home. It was supposed to have been a busy day for me. I had meetings set up, errands to run, host a play date for my son, have lunch with friends. Instead, I'll be at home all day. Today – and tomorrow.

Activists burn an effigy in Hyderabad against fuel price rises.
Activists burn an effigy in Hyderabad against fuel price rises.

It's not that I mind sitting at home all day. I am on holiday and more than happy to spend time with my parents, plod around the house and catch up with my cousins and niece who live down the road. That's as far as I can go on Thursday as well as Friday.

There's a two day bandh – a general strike called by the ruling Left Front on day one, and by the opposition parties the next day. That means cars aren't allowed on the road, schools are closed, shops are shut, no businesses will trade, some flights to and from the city have been canceled.

The bandh is West Bengal's answer to the hike in fuel prices. After putting it off for weeks, India's central government sharply raised fuel prices on Wednesday. An extra Rs 5 per liter for petrol (up around 11 percent,) Rs 3 for diesel, Rs 50 for a cylinder of cooking gas.

That's a steep rise. With global oil prices at record highs, the Indian government had to give in. As it is, fuel prices in India are heavily subsidised to ease the impact on the millions who live in poverty.

State-run oil marketing companies are hemorrhaging vast amounts of money – as much as a billion dollars a day, according to some reoports. Some folks say the price hike should have been even higher, to make the economics of $130 a barrel of oil work out. Thursday's price hike was inevitable.

Fine, I get all that. I understand why the government had to raise fuel prices and I understand why people are upset. So, protest. Hold a peaceful rally somewhere and make your point. Tell the government you are angry, make your demands. But a bandh?! How does it help to bring a heaving city to a grinding halt for two days?

Not only is it a massive headache for calcuttans, imagine the financial cost to the city of two lost working days.

It makes no sense.

For a state trying to woo investors, attract multinational companies and project an image of a forward thinking business hub – a bandh is a giant step backwards. How can those calling the bandh not get that?

Let me know what you think.

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Filed under: Business

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Arti

    All because gas prices go up by 7cents!! Planning a bandh on a Thu and Fri so that business's and banks stay closed for 4 days-just ridiculous. None of these political parties understand the economics and the business impact of a bandh. A country on the verge of breaking through and becoming a economic powerhouse, this certainly doesn't help the agenda. But the power finally lies in the hands of a common man...what will it take for people to get together to say enough is enough.

    June 5, 2008 at 2:15 pm |
  2. sean brown

    Very informative, is there an alternative to gas car

    June 6, 2008 at 4:38 am |
  3. Xavier J. Luis

    India is an ancient civilization with wisdom of the great images.But it is a young Democracy. It has a huge middle class. well educated but in an awesome hurry to get a better State of living. This leads them to ignore the wisdom of the agesand fall prey to THE VULTURES that infest all the major political partiesof India.These parties strive to score browny points with an easily frustrated middle class for short term political gain. also the lack of political courage of the ruling coalition to challenge and contest the Oppositions myopia only adds to the confusion. We hope that maybe as India matures into thinking democracy,wisely stepping forward.Or there is anarchy which is what The Left wants,to come to power,and the myopic BJP AND ITS CRONIES play right into thier hands.

    June 7, 2008 at 7:56 pm |
  4. Guido

    It is not that simple. Compare 7 cents to an average income of $150 to £400 of a middle class family with 5 children when at the same time inflation hits 8%

    That happening is underlining the disconnection between politics, business and the real life on the streat.

    June 8, 2008 at 8:07 am |
  5. Jamie

    I assume that the goal of the bandh is to drastically reduce their energy consumption, and thus reduce the the demand of oil and cripple the only ones benefiting the oil spikes – the Oil companies.
    Unfortunately, the only way this could work is if the major world powers came together and made a concerted effort to reduce or cease energy usage for one day. And When will that happen? Probably never.

    June 9, 2008 at 7:39 am |
  6. navneet kamboj , Chandigarh , India

    It matters a lot the changes oil is making with ever growing $ per barrel. Politicians are people who have narrow thinking. Rather than telling about actual reasons for the rise in petroleum prices they start playing blame games. And believe no one wins this game as it always end in a tie..... And who suffers a common man. A person who can afford to buy a vehicle worth 10 lacs can afford petrol or diesel no matter what...

    June 9, 2008 at 8:45 am |
  7. McCormick, Evelyn

    I am a black female nurse. I was 100% for Mrs Clinton until she went negative. I donot step on noone to get ahead in life and her behavior did not represent. me.

    June 9, 2008 at 12:07 pm |
  8. Major Michael Saunders (USArmy retired)

    With all the talk of sky-high oil prices and the usage of alternative means of fuel One thing has been greatly overlooked. There has been very little interest in the development of power devices that do not utilize hydro-chemicals. Why is this I ask?????

    From what I have been able to gather every attempt by those who purpose the usage of alternative fuels and energy products (that do not involve the monopoly that the oil companies have imposed on the nation) have been vetoed and blacklisted by special interest groups. Nuclear powered automobiles (and transport trucks); The Blacklight Process; Water powered( being broken down into “HHO”…the list is endless… but totally degraded and forced into the background. Special interest groups, especially those employed by the petroleum industry has, in the past, forced the Government into outlaying any process that doesn’t fill their back pockets.

    It is about time that alternative fueled transport was allowed to be developed but I do not feel that this will ever happen. Government policies (being backed by political kickbacks …(SPECIAL INTREST FEES going into the pockets of elected officials and those political appointees who have become very rich on the backs of the working poor)) have vetoed every attempt of these products being considered and/or approved for usage.

    Through utilizing simple materials, obtained at a local hardware store, I have modified my car (a 1996 ford) so/as it will run on HHO. To date I have put over 120,000 KLS on it at a total cost of just under $275.00 Canadian…. But the government demands that I take it off the road….they stated that it does not meet government standards (I’m not paying gasoline taxes into their fattened coppers) and the fuel has not been approved for usage on the highway (the hydrocarbon special interest groups have demanded that I be jailed for violating different laws governing the usage of fuels). I am also running a generator on HHO which supplies power for my home and business (Last year it cost me just under $12.00) which is also very illegal (I’m not paying taxes on my power usage…..again not fattening the coppers of the special interest groups and the government appointees who make their living robbing the consumer). But, until I’m thrown into prison for my illegal acts (using HHO as a fuel) I’m going to continue do do so.

    Major Michael Saunders (USArmy retired)

    June 11, 2008 at 12:43 am |
  9. Pravin

    The Left Block Parties – or the Communist Parties who hold the fort in the State of West Bengal, behave in abject hypocrisy. They attract investments from the likes of IBM, Infosys, PWC etc into the state and yet they dont want the economy to liberalize further. The problem with the LEFT is that they have moved so far away from their brief of socialism and equality that they are just a bunch of well-educated (in most cases uneducated) gangsters.

    I wish the Indian Govt. falls quickly so that we can have an election and vote either the BJP or Congress into power without these retrograde Communists.

    June 20, 2008 at 7:25 pm |
  10. latha rajamani

    The communists in West Bengal have gone bonkers.World over communism is almost dead. The Left parties behave as if they care for the poor where as the truth is that all the top brass in the party
    have sent their children to all the possible capitalistic countries in the world either for higher studies or for some lucrative jobs.The last I heard was that Mr.Jyoti Basu' son has settled in the UK and every one knows that Mr.Basu has been a staunch communist for so many yrs.

    June 24, 2008 at 4:49 am |
  11. alirezaei alireza

    soon or late the oil production will be ended and may be this is best chance to prepare for it . let's work together and save the earth.

    June 27, 2008 at 6:38 am |
  12. Lisa

    Bandh, extended weekend. tax holidays, more drilling, more research to find even more oil. OIL OIL OIL OIL OIL OIL OIL and MORE OIL. So much ado about nothing but GIGANTIC profits and the bolstering of the super rich's portfolios. Keeping politition A-B-and C in thier cushy jobs term after term after term.

    Getting to know the future is what we need to do now. I have been shoping for the latest craze in transportaion. She gets fifity miles to the bail. Hay is currently less than a fourth the cost of a gallon of glorios gas. I found a very reasonably priced four wheeler at the county Omish sale barn. The orange triangle I found at a garage sale down the street. I got an old but viable marine battery in the news paper. at a fifth the cost of a new one, to power my rear blinking light that came with my good used four wheel buggy. Hopefully the nag I get for the engine will come with harness and blinders. Now all I need to do is leave an hour earlier for work and convince my employer to install a hitch-post and let me clean up the parking stall every two days or so. Sounds funny doesn't it. Get off oil and gas as a means for work transportaion and other short trips or we'll all be looking for "old paint" to get where we need to go.

    Tesla has introduced a car that runs entirely on batteris at nearly 300 miles per charge, at over 90mph if needed. That same battery could have been put into GM's EV-1 and made it the world's only viable electric car. Now Chevron and Exxon both own those batteries and are doing what we all feared they would. Sitting on them, or refusing to allow them into any cars other than hybreads'. Yup you heard right. Hybreads must have gassoline for thier tiny little powerplants or you go for a little over forty miles to the charge. Those greedy silly CEOs' of the major auto makers have done it again. Took a real promise and sold it to the oil boys for massive amounts of under the table "Bird in the hand" cash. I hope they retire just as the dollar falls totally apart and all thier greenbacks are worthless. I hope after he leaves office, Mr. Bush gets stranded in one of his "Wave of the future" hydrogen cars about a hundred miles from home. Since he's so stupid, gets lost and rescued by a little old lady driving her 1901 electric sedan, or me in my horse and buggy. I'll only ask that he clean up my nagg's poop for the ride. Heck if he wants, he can have that poop and maybe he can refine it into the hydrogen fuel he needs to get his "Wave of the future" home again.

    Hydrogen.????? It's at least 50-75 years away as a form of oil replacement. No way can anyone store enough of it to get more than 100 miles if that. No way can it be less than five times more expensive than gassoline to produce. No way can it be produced in any quantities on earth to even start to show any replacement value of oil in ther next fifty years. Oil is now 143.00 a barrel. In 50 years you will starve to death or walk to work and take loans out to buy gas. No way can hydrogen operate cars in cooler or cold weather. No way can this world establish any fueling infrastructure based on Hydrogen. No car ever produced to run on hydrogen costs less than ONE MILLION DOLLARS. I see thousnands of them everuywhere, don't you? Bush seems to see them. OIL...... will be all we have unless we take back our country from crooks in Washington and let Corporate fat cats waller in thier greed and the filth on thier shelves.

    The point? Electric cars are the only real alternative to oil ....and Bush knew it when he handed Allan Loyd 1.2 BILLION $$$$$$ to kill the lectric car in California by 2006. The oil companies knew it when they bought the battery tech. that proved that it wasn't a dream like hydrogen is. Electrics were here and THEY, GM, OIL, Bush, and the republican congress wiped it off the face of the earth and we ALL sat back and let them do it.

    Bandh? why? Bring back the electric car or get your horse and buggy people.

    July 2, 2008 at 3:43 am |

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