Indian shops protest entry of foreign retail

December 1, 2011
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Traders sit outside closed shops at a main market during a strike against the Indian Cabinets decision to allow more direct foreign investment in the nation's huge retail industry, in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. The arrival of modern retailing would hasten a cultural transformation in the way Indians shop and work. The debate now raging, which has shut down Parliament, hinges on competing visions of what foreign retailers will mean to agriculture and retail, India's two largest sources of jobs. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Shops around India closed their doors Thursday in a strike called to protest a new policy to allow big-box retailers into the country.

Opposition lawmakers again forced Parliament to adjourn, demanding the government immediately rescind last week's decision.

Hundreds of traders marching in New Delhi burned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in effigy and waved signs calling for the rollback of the policy. One sign showed foreign investment as a raging dinosaur.

Amid the furor, Ikea chief executive Mikael Ohlsson quietly concluded his India trip without making a much-anticipated announcement about Ikea's investment plans.

"We have decided to take some more time to plan the next actions. We look forward to present more information about our expansion plans shortly," Ikea spokeswoman Josefin Thorell said by email.

The strike called by the Confederation of All India Traders was only partially observed in New Delhi, Mumbai and other cities, with many shops still open and others only closing for a few hours.

The Cabinet decided it would allow foreign retailers to own up to 51 percent of supermarkets and 100 percent of single-brand stores and set up shops in major cities.

The government says the foreign retailers will help build up infrastructure, reduce the amount of food that spoils and lower prices for consumers hit by high food inflation. Shopowners fear the entry of companies such as Wal-Mart and Tesco will crush local mom-and-pop stores and eliminate millions of jobs.