Indians protest at French store over retail reform
Hundreds of angry protesters rallied at a wholesale Carrefour store in the Indian city of Jaipur to demonstrate against reforms opening up the retail sector to foreign firms, police said on Tuesday.
Local police officers told AFP that protesters from trade bodies and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had entered the French-owned store, but a spokesman for the company denied the reports.
"The demonstrators managed to barge inside the store despite security," police sub-inspector Bajrang Singh said about Monday's protest in Jaipur, a popular tourist destination in the western state of Rajasthan.
"They tried to tear some banners but they could not do so and we controlled the situation in time. However, they burnt an effigy of Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh)," he said.
The BJP has led opposition to government reforms to the retail sector announced last week, which critics say will wipe out many small, family-run stores.
Foreign companies have been allowed to operate wholesale stores in India, but the new reforms would enable them to sell directly to customers via large supermarkets.
"Our protest was against the government's decision to allow foreign direct investment in the retail sector," Arun Chaturvedi, BJP leader in Rajasthan state, told AFP.
A fire was lit outside the store as protesters chanted slogans demanding a withdrawal of the reforms, which have attracted widespread opposition from many lawmakers including parties within the ruling Congress coalition.
"There was no damage. Everybody is safe," a Carrefour spokesman, who declined to be named, told AFP. "It was a peaceful protest. They didn't enter in the store and nothing has been burnt."
© 2011 AFP