India Bristles at Western-Style Economy India's middle class is growing along with the country's western-style consumer economy. And so is a fundamental debate over whether the majority of Indians actually want to go in this direction. Some believe the changes threaten the well-being of millions of Indians shut out of the current boom.
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India Bristles at Western-Style Economy

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India Bristles at Western-Style Economy

India Bristles at Western-Style Economy

India Bristles at Western-Style Economy

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India's middle class is growing along with the country's western-style consumer economy. And so is a fundamental debate over whether the majority of Indians actually want to go in this direction. Some believe the changes threaten the well-being of millions of Indians shut out of the current boom.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Here's NPR's Philip Reeves in New Delhi.

PHILIP REEVES: But here not much has changed. This is Chandni Chowk in Delhi, one of South Asia's older bazaars. Its alleys are crammed with tiny stalls, piled high with silverware and silk, with sacks of ginger and cinnamon, with saris and brilliantly colored wedding decorations.

U: (Foreign language spoken)

REEVES: Here you can buy anything, from a pile of gems to a peacock's feather. And you're expected to haggle.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAZAAR)

REEVES: Today though, Chandni Chowk is the setting for a dispute of a different kind.

U: Because the livelihoods are being taken away by the foreign companies, by the big corporations...

REEVES: Several hundred small traders, trade unionists and community activists have gathered on the streets. They're protesting against corporate giants setting up shopping malls and mega stores in India.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTORS)

REEVES: But activist and author Vandana Shiva, who's leading the Chandni Chowk protest, accuses Wal-Mart of trying to get into India through the back door.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTORS)

M: For Wal-Mart's clone culture to come and teach us how to run markets is stupidity.

REEVES: For Shiva, this is all about preserving a traditional culture.

M: No markets are as lively, as prosperous, as vibrant, as diverse as India's markets. In Chandni Chowk you generate per square foot five livelihoods in a land of lots of people and very little space.

REEVES: Beth Keck is Wal-Mart's director of International Corporate Affairs.

M: This is a growing economy, a growing consumer class here. And what we've found in other emerging markets that we've operated in is that the pie is actually just getting bigger for everyone.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTORS)

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, New Dehli.

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