Shopkeepers, traders and labourers joined in a nationwide shutdown in India on Thursday, blocking railway lines and closing markets across the country to protest against a raft of reforms designed to revive a slowing economy, a move that has sparked a furious backlash. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week launched the reforms with a hike in the price of diesel, triggering a steep increase in prices of essential commodities. Singh also set a ceiling of the number of subsidised cooking gas cylinders that each family can have. Traders were angered by a decision that allows foreign retail chains to invest directly. The political Left and the Right joined hands in the agitation. Communist leaders AB Bardhan and Sitaram Yechury shared the stage with the Hindu nationalist BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi and Nitin Gadkari at a protest organised by traders.