Flights, rail services and road traffic in parts of India were badly affected Tuesday and some schools and businesses shut down by a strike called by the country's opposition communist parties and their allies to protest rising food and fuel prices.

Food prices have jumped nearly 20 per cent from last year amid shortages caused by weak monsoon rains that led to a drought while the costs of fuel and power have risen nearly 13 per cent in March from a year ago, according to government data.

The sharp rises have pushed India's headline inflation to 9.9 per cent in March and become a political issue, with the opposition parties attacking the ruling Congress party for not doing enough and holding up business in Parliament.

Opposition parties vainly tried to secure a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government on the issue of fuel price hikes late on Tuesday, but the motion was defeated as the ruling Congress Party had adequate support from its allies.
The eastern city of Calcutta, capital of West Bengal state that is governed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), was among the worst hit by the strike as airport workers joined the daylong action and several airlines canceled flights to the city until Tuesday evening.

Protesters also held up trains and traffic for several hours in the states of Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala, officials and Press Trust of India news agency said. Schools, colleges and businesses were also shut in several areas across the affected states.

In Bihar, police took nearly 400 protesters into custody to prevent further protests and violence, according to Neelmani, the state's top police official, who goes by just one name.

In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, hundreds of protesters were also detained, according to Brij Lal, a senior police official.

Protesters also set at least three buses on fire in the state capital, Lucknow, he said.

They also stopped at least a dozen trains in different cities in Uttar Pradesh for a few hours on Tuesday. Train services later resumed, Lal said. No major violence or injuries were reported, police said.—AP