Yellow Vest Protest - What actually is happening in France and what India can learn from it?

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For the past few weeks, protesters wearing yellow vests have occupied streets of France. France is witnessing one of the largest social mobilisations in recent history. Tens of thousands of ordinary(mostly rural) citizens wearing fluorescent yellow road safety vest are demanding something from the government. This movement started on 17 November 2018 and it is still going on. In this article, we are going to have a closer look at the situation and also what India can learn from it.

Causes

  • Increasing fuel taxes
  • Application of the carbon tax - Carbon Tax is a tax levied on Carbon content of fuels.
  • Austerity measures - Austerity refers to the policies that aim to reduce government budget deficits through spending cuts, tax increases, or a combination of both. Austerity measures are used by governments that find it difficult to pay their debts.
  • Digitization of administrations
  • Traffic enforcement cameras - It is a camera which is mounted beside or over a road to detect traffic offences. Critiques often say that the government applies cameras in deceptive ways to increase government revenue rather than improve road safety.
  • Repeal of the wealth tax in 2017
  • Globalization
  • Neoliberalism

Objectives

  • Decrease of fuel and motor taxes
  • Improved standard of living
  • Raise in minimum wage
  • Resignation of President Emmanuel Macron and his government
  • End to unpopular austerity measures
  • Government transparency and accountability to the working and middle classes

Spread of the Movement

This movement mainly spread through the internet and social media. A woman from the Seine-et-Marne department started a petition on the change.org website in May 2018 that reached 300,000 signatures by mid-October. Also, two men from the same department launched a Facebook event for 17 November to "block all roads" and thus protest against an increase in fuel prices they considered excessive, stating that this increase was the result of the tax increase. One of the viral videos around this group launched the idea of using yellow jackets.

How are they protesting?

People are mainly blocking traffic in high-profile areas and near fuel depots. At its peak, the number of protesters almost touched 300,000 across the country. This blocking of traffic has caused a loss of over 1 Billion US$ to the retailers. 

Are the protests peaceful?

Instances of rioting, vandalism and looting have also been reported. Instances of aggression and even fighting with knives among the protesters have also been reported. As of now, 4 civilians have died, 1000+ civilians and 200+ policemen are injured and around 2500 people have been arrested.
While the demonstrations have shrunk considerably since the weekend, French officials say that the past two days have seen  “a multiplication of violent acts, racist acts, anti-Semitic acts and vandalism.”

Why Yellow Jackets?

Since 2008, a law has required all French motorists to have high-visibility vests in their vehicles when driving. As a result, these yellow reflective vests were widely available, inexpensive, and symbolic. So different groups made use of their high-visibility vests to draw attention to their agendas.

Government's Response

  • President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday defended the fuel tax hikes but called for “dialogue” to calm tensions.
  • In his first comments about the protests, Macron acknowledged that it’s “normal” that people are expressing frustration.
  • He said he’s trying to “change habits” by weaning the French off fossil fuels, “which is never simple.” 
  • The government has cancelled the gas tax and a six-month moratorium on diesel and gasoline price changes.
  • The government has promised to raise the minimum wage by €100 per month by 2019.
  • An announcement has been made that the price of the √Člectricit√© de France(an electricity company of France) blue tariffs would not increase before March 2019.
  • The government has eliminated tax on overtime and end-of-the-year bonuses.

What can Indian Government learn from this?

Social media is a very powerful tool nowadays. In order to prevent such protests from happening in our country, the government needs to implement some solid policies regarding taxes, fuel prices and also solid policies related to daily-wage workers. 
The quality of life in India is not good especially among lower class workers and the government needs to do something about it.

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The Radical: Yellow Vest Protest - What actually is happening in France and what India can learn from it?
Yellow Vest Protest - What actually is happening in France and what India can learn from it?
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