Thousands protest high food prices in New Delhi

Thousands protest high food prices in New Delhi

New Delhi: Tens of thousands of trade unionists, including those from a group linked to the ruling Congress party, marched through the streets of New Delhi on Wednesday to protest food prices, piling pressure on a government already under fire over graft.

India has been grappling with double-digit food inflation with millions of poor citizens hit the hardest.

The processsion consisting at least 50,000 people representing trade unions from different political parties, marched through the centre of the Capital towards the Parliament.

In a sea of red flags and hats bearing their union name, protesters chanted slogans and carried banners calling on the government to provide food security.

“Prices will now kill the common man", read one banner.

“We get paid Rs100-125 ($2-3) a day. How are we going to survive on this if prices are so high?" said Kailash Sain, who had travelled form Rajasthan.

“We have come here so that our voices reverberate inside the house (Parliament) and they can see what pain the common man is going through," said another demonstrator, Akhil Samamtray from Orissa.

Protesters arrived by bus and train from all over the country and the numbers were expected to rise.

P.J. Raju, secretary of the Congress’ trade union, said around 100,000 people from his party alone would be joining the protest.

The presence of trade union members from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ruling Congress party -- a rare instance of a protest against their own government -- is a telling sign of the concerns within the party about government policies that have been unable to tame inflation.

The government has looked increasingly helpless as it tries to introduce policies to rein in food prices, which analysts say have come far too late.

The Reserve Bank of India has raised interest rates seven times in a year to try and tame rising prices but has warned fiscal policies would be largely ineffective against rising food prices which stem largely from bad weather and problems on the supply side.

The protests also come only a day after Singh relented to months of opposition demands for a parliamentary probe into a multi-billion dollar scandal over sales of telecoms licences for kickbacks.