The India Shut-Down strike is closing businesses, shops, transport and schools in several major cities. Residents of Mumbai, Kerala, Chennai and Guwahati, among others, are protesting the Indian government's decision to stop subsidizing fuel prices, which have begun to soar. Protest organizers in the opposition BJP party and allies in smaller political groups say increased costs will hit poor Indians the hardest. Indian news agencies are tracking the strike's effects.
The one day action is intended to show political strength as well as displeasure. The WSJ wants to know: will it work? NPR's Corey Flintoff is in New Delhi, which he says is fairly quiet; many supporters of the ruling party live there. But he tells Morning Edition that's it's dead in Mumbai, India's financial capital, and businesses are closed:
Protesters have blocked trains and buses, set barricades of burning tires and clashed with police….some leaders of the opposition party were arrested for acts of civil disobedience. The ruling Congress Party says it has to end subsidies on fuel as a way to contain soaring government deficits….One interesting thing I’m hearing is that people who are really angry about the fuel price increase are also aware of the financial costs of such a massive strike. There are headlines on the TV channels: ‘prices and bandh: double trouble.’
Bharat Bandh is trending high on Twitter.
Day 77: BP'S Bill Is Growing
The energy company reports as of today, it's paid out about $3.12 billion in oil clean up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. Of that amount, $147 million is for damage claims. The AP reports the federal government wants to take control of the oil response webpage, which has been a shared venture among several government agencies and BP, which has also devoted its own corporate front page to the oil cleanup effort.
BP: Safety, Money Troubles
ProPublica and Frontline are following the oil spill cleanup efforts by tracing BP's history of dealing with safety. Their latest joint report discusses a different BP explosion in Texas, during 2005:
According to a safety audit BP conducted just before the 2005 blast, many of the plant's more than 2,000 employees arrived at work each day with an "exceptional degree of fear of catastrophic incidents." ...
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined BP $87 million last year -- the largest fine in OSHA history -- for failing to repair many of the safety problems that led to the blast. Four more workers have died in various accidents since then, and two chemical releases in 2007 sent more than 130 people to the hospital.
The story details an explosion at a BP oil refinery in Texas City that killed 15 people. The report is jarring and complicated:
Despite the deaths and the chemical releases, most Texas City residents remain loyal to the company. BP has donated millions of dollars to a community center, parks and the local high school, and people here know their town of 44,000 would wither if the refinery was closed. BP is not only the town's biggest employer; it's also its best-paying, offering starting salaries of $62,000.
The report uses government documents, court paperwork and internal BP reports to describe an aging facility that BP knew was in trouble. As for money, BP is losing value and must ward off other companies that might want to swoop in and take it over. Our pals at Marketplace note BP is looking for a White Knight investor to fend off a hostile takeover. (HT: Steve Chiotakis!)