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Left organises protests against fuel price hike

Wednesday 29 June 2005

Staff Correspondent

More effective in West Bengal, Kerala

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WHEN FRIENDS OPPOSE: Activists of Left parties demonstrating against the hike in petrol and diesel prices in New Delhi on Tuesday. The parties on Sunday decided to suspend their participation in the UPA coordination committee meetings. - Photo: R. V. Moorthy

NEW DELHI: The nation-wide strike sponsored by the Left parties against the hike in fuel prices evoked a mixed response on Tuesday. While it was more visible in West Bengal and Kerala, it evoked a partial response in Delhi and Bihar. The strike was token in the rest of the country.

A statement from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said the strike was a "warning" to the United Progressive Alliance Government that the Left parties could not be taken for granted and that all anti-people policies would be opposed. Police used water cannons in the capital to disperse hundreds of Left activists at the Income Tax Office (ITO) crossing when they tried to jump over barricades and lay in front of vehicles.

"Suggestions ignored"

Addressing the gathering, CPI national secretary D. Raja said the price hike was totally uncalled for and if the Left parties’ suggestions were carried out, the increase in prices in petrol and diesel would not have been necessary. "If sales tax, customs duty and excise duty are reduced in Delhi, a litre of petrol would cost only Rs. 17 instead of the present Rs 40," he said.

Mr. Raja criticised the Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar’s statement that there would be no roll back of petroleum prices. He said this was not the voice of democracy but that of authoritarian rule. He was also critical of the Government’s decision to disinvest the profit-making Public Sector Undertakings.

The other leaders who participated in the demonstration were, CPI(M) leaders M.K. Pandhe and Jogender Sharma; CPI leader Dipankar Mukherjee; Amarjit Kaur and Abani Roy of the RSP and G. Devarajan of the Forward Bloc.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat questioned the Government’s rationale behind raising the prices when there were alternatives to avert a price hike. She said the recent hike had nothing to do with the global oil rates. It was more due to internal taxation, she said.

In Karnataka, the Left parties organised demonstrations by putting auto-rickshaws and scooters on bullock-carts to demonstrate. There was sporadic disruption of rail and road traffic in Bihar and in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, thousands of CPI and CPI (M) volunteers organised demonstrations. Protests were also staged in the mining areas of Bailadila and Kirandul in Chhattisgarh.

See online : The Hindu

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