December 1st, 2011
12:21 PM GMT
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New Delhi, India (CNN) – Traders shuttered shops and markets through India Thursday to protest the federal announcement to open the country's $450 billion retail market to foreign competition.

The move came as lawmakers opposed to the plan paralyzed the national parliament for yet another day.

"Our strike shows how angry indigenous traders are," said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which led slogan-shouting demonstrations in New Delhi.


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November 29th, 2011
02:57 PM GMT
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New Delhi, India (CNN) - India's federal government is facing ongoing disruption as the battle continues over its decision to allow foreign supermarkets into the nation's $450 billion retail market.

The uproar by lawmakers forced an abrupt adjournment of India's parliament for another day Tuesday. The impasse has also been stalling key legislative business, including the passage of an anti-corruption bill. An all-party meeting to end the deadlock has also failed.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, meanwhile, is defending last week’s decision to allow international supermarket chains into the country’s retail sector, saying it was “well considered.”

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July 2nd, 2009
08:25 AM GMT
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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) - For many Indians, a four-wheeled family car is the stuff of hopes and aspirations.

And Maruti Jayawant Bhandare – a 43-year-old man living on $160 a month by mending shoes from his tiny stall in Mumbai – learned earlier this week his dreams might have come true.

News reporters told him he was one of the lucky first 100,000 customers selected for the world's cheapest car, the Nano, being built by India's Tata Motors.

He was one of 206,703 people who in April booked what has been billed in India as “the common man's car.” He paid Rs 140,000, or around $2,800, for a deluxe version of the Nano; the basic model is priced from $2,000.

A cobbler booking a Nano made news in India, where a car ownership is a luxury for most. Here was a potential car owner who lives in a rented room in a Mumbai tenement with his wife and two school-age children.

I called him after seeing news reports he was among the first. Bhandare was eager to receive his tiny, jelly bean-shaped car – although he had yet to learn how to drive.

Still, he was a little unsure when his car would arrive since Bhandare doesn't know how to access the Internet to check the delivery information the company provided. So he gave me his details to check the company Web site for his application status.

Alas, I found the earlier press reports were incorrect – "Mr Maruti Bhandare" was not among the lucky first Nano owners. He is scheduled to take delivery of his car between January and March 2011.

A two-year wait for his sunshine-yellow hatchback sounded a bit too long for Bhandare. "I will go to the showroom, make some inquiries and decide then what's to be done now," he said.

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June 9th, 2009
01:36 AM GMT
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FARIDABAD, India — Power goes off as we drive into Harjit Singh's factory in this dusty industrial zone on the outskirts of India's capital New Delhi.
Singh, who makes fasteners and nuts for automobiles, turns to a heavy-duty generator lying in one corner of the factory floor as his workers struggles to switch it on. An elderly employee surrounded by idle machines continues his work with a handheld metal file.
In energy-deficit India, factory-owners like Singh – classified as micro and small enterprises – suffer routine power droughts like this. Still, these small companies manage to account for 39 percent of the manufacturing output and one-third of the country's total export.
The Indian government says this sector, spread over 12.8 million enterprises, employs an estimated 31 million people – a labor intensity four times higher than large enterprises.
But Singh says it is in a crisis now. "We are facing a business crunch, a major business crunch due to the economic slowdown," he laments as his machines rumble to life as power is restored.
He tells me that manufacturing activity has dropped considerably because of falling orders. Singh is caught in what he calls a "debt-trap" because costly banks loans to keep the business running.
His biggest worry is a permanent shutdown caused not by shoddy power, but by the financial crisis. In the past year he laid off 20 of the 38 workers. His sales are only one-fifth his 2007 volume. "I can’t help it, I can’t survive. I have to survive on the bare minimum," he remarks.
The trouble on Singh’s factory floor belies rosy headlines in the Indian press. "Get, set, grow," read a headline for the Hindustan Times. "Good news: At 6.7%, GDP grows more than expected," said a Times of India headline the same day.
But for Singh, it's unclear what lies ahead. He hopes the government will promote more bank loans for his ailing automobile sector, tax concessions and a curb on Chinese imports to keep his business from closure.

 "Something has to be done immediately; otherwise we’ve had it," he says.

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