Opposition to what?

Last week, a survey of thirty-six countries that account for ninety per cent of the world's undernourished children, revealed that India was right at the bottom. Rock bottom along with Angola, Cameroon, Congo and Yemen. Even by the abysmal standards of South Asia, India fared worse than Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. A nutrition barometer, started by Save the Children, found that 50 per cent of Indian children are stunted from malnutrition and more than 70 per cent of women and children suffer from diseases caused by poor nutrition.

These are shameful statistics and you would think that this is what made nearly every major Opposition leader take to the streets in protest last Thursday. But, it was not the reason why they tried to close India down with a Bharat bandh. The reason why Marxists, socialists, Hindutva types and secularists marched hand in hand to police stations to court arrest was because they were concerned about foreign investment coming to India. Walmart and Tesco threaten the interests of the 'peepul', they said, so off they went on demonstrations across the streets of our cities, demanding that the government cancel its decision.

If you watched the demonstrations, you may have observed that there was almost no sign of the 'peepul'. It was political workers who thronged the streets of Mumbai and Delhi and not that revered creature, the 'common man'. This could be because the average Indian is sick to death of this kind of protest but I think there could be another reason as well.

Could it be that the 'common man' sees no threat to his interests from FDI in retail? Could it be that farmers see the opening up of new markets and opportunities in the government's latest economic reform? And, could it be that urban consumers see the possibility of more choices and lower prices? I believe so because the people are no longer as stupid and naÔve as our political leaders like to think.

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