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India Bristles at Western-Style Economy


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.


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.


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.


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.


REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, New Dehli. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.