Will Energy and Food Price Protests Spark Trouble in India?

Posted: 25th October 2012
 Will Energy and Food Price Protests Spark Trouble in India?

The New York Times several weeks ago called India the ‘home of the nonviolent protest’ in reference to its history, but the country’s  current state of affairs suggests the title remains relevant. And a rash of protests over energy and fuel have us thinking back to previous research such as our analysis of Yemen where rising food prices were an indicator of future unrest. Could India be at risk for similarly broad social disruption?

The country has experienced protests recently on a wide range of issues: national government retail reform efforts, land acquisition for the processing of bauxite and coal, the raising of water levels around a dam, rising fuel prices, movies including a yet to be released film based on Salman Rushdie’s book Midnight’s Children, and nuclear power. Some subjects were also surely overlooked in this list, and there are even more protest events being planned for the next several weeks as you can see below:

Highlighted details from above for the next two weeks:

  • October 27 – Protests in Kashmir over “Indian occupation”
  • October 29 – Protest to be held outside the Tamil Nadu state assembly against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project
  • November 1 – Social activist Arvind Kejriwal and his group India Against Corruption (IAC) appealing for support in protest of law minister  Salman Khurshid.
  • November 2 – West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has planned an all-India campaign starting with a protest rally in Haryana.
  • November 4 – Arvind Kejriwal said, “The Delhi government must roll back the hike before November three or we will protest again on November 4 and gherao Sheila Dikshit’s house. We challenge them to try to cut the electricity of anyone in Delhi.”

But what really stands out is the event on November 4 around rising electricity costs. Let’s look deeper at the scope of protests around price hikes particularly on energy and food (independent and as an effect of higher fuel prices):

What catches your eye on the map? To us, it’s the clear view that these protests around prices are not geographically isolated and appear to be rallying around several key issues: rising cost of diesel fuel, liquified petroleum gas (butane), and food. One thing to note: the map charts events from the last sixty days, and we’ll point out that the map of recent events above looks very similar to the shape of things between April 2012 and July 2012.

So with that final thought in mind, are these issues over price hikes simmering ahead of something more organized nationally or should this be view as sustained dissent at a local level without the risk of escalation? Leave us a note below.