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Bharat bandh today; Govt rules out roll back of fuel
Published on 5 Jul. 2010 12:15 AM IST
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A day before a countrywide shutdown called by all opposition parties against the hike in fuel prices, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K.Advani Sunday termed it a “first” in India but the Left asserted it was not fighting jointly with the BJP against the Congress-led government at the centre.
On his part, union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee asserted there would be no rollback in prices, while Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said she would vociferously oppose the shutdown in West Bengal.
The likely impact of the shutdown can be gauged from the fact that a major truckers union said Sunday that a staggering 62 lakh vehicles would stay off the roads Monday.
The countrywide opposition shutdown, called by the Left parties and the NDA (National Democratic Alliance), against the fuel price hike is for the “first time in India’s history,” Advani said.
Advani, who is the BJP parliamentary board chairperson, said: “As far as my memory goes, this is for the first time I am seeing so many of the political parties coming together calling a Bharat Bandh.”
However, Communist Party of India’s (CPPI) deputy general secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy told IANS that it was the Congress’ attempt to “brand” that the Left parties and the BJP were fighting together against their government.
“Left has given call for the shutdown separately. Similarly, BJP and their alliance have given call for strike separately. We are not fighting together,” he said.
In a statement, the BJP-led NDA said that though the Left parties have called for a separate bandh on the same day, the NDA was “heartened” to find that cutting across ideologies, opposition parties have come together to forcefully register their protest and demand roll back of the recent hikes.
Attacking the government, the statement said: “If the government admits its inability to roll back prices and control inflation, it has no business to cling on to power. This is the message that will go out from tomorrow’s Bharat Bandh.”
The NDA will not tolerate the government’s “premeditated conspiracy” against the people of India, it added.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) also slammed the government for not reconsidering the steps being taken to deregulate petrol and diesel prices, saying “the the deregulation of prices are meant to help the private oil companies and put the people at the mercy of a market-controlled by the multinational oil companies and the domestic corporates”.
The CPI-M charged the Congress-led government with being “directly responsible” for the rise in food prices.
Appealing to the people to join the all India shutdown Monday, the party said: “This powerful all India protest action should serve as a warning to the government not to heap burdens on the people and to withdraw the price hike measures.”
Banerjee, who is also the Trinamool Congress chief, criticised the CPI-M-led Left Front for calling the 12-hour shutdown Monday.
“We don’t support this bandh. The bandh will not reduce the suffering of the common people,” she told media persons in Kolkata.
Meanwhile, Mukherjee brushed off any possibility of a roll back of the price hikes.
“There is no question of a roll back. I am not interested in who is calling a bandh or not. This much I can tell you, it is for the political parties to decide what mode of protest they will take,” he told reporters brusquely on the sidelines of a seminar organised by Assocham in Kolkata.
In Maharashtra, government officials said the state is geared up to tackle the countrywide shutdown.
Along with the entire police force of Mumbai, additional security personnel will be ready to prevent any untoward incident during the 12-hour shutdown which begins Monday 6 a.m., officials said.
The neighbouring BJP-ruled Gujarat is going all out to ensure the success of the Monday shutdown call as part of the party’s national programme to protest rising prices and the fuel price hike.
Already party workers have fanned out asking educational institutions to stay closed and even corporate entities have been discreetly told to stay shut.
Also, joining the bandh, as many as 62 lakh trucks and other vehicles deployed in India’s road transport sector will be off the roads Monday in support of the nationwide shutdown to protest against rising prices and the fuel price hike, a truckers’ organisation said.
The All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) termed as “unjustified” the hike in the prices of petrol and diesel.
“It has not only affected the road transport fraternity but also the common man of the country too,” said AIMTC president G.R. Shanmugappa in a statement.
On June 25, a ministerial panel, headed by Mukherjee, had lifted the pricing controls on petroleum. As a result, petrol went up by Rs.3.50 a litre. The government hiked the prices of diesel by Rs.2 a litre, kerosene - known as the poor man’s fuel and traditionally spared during periodic fuel price hikes - by Rs.3 a litre and cooking gas by Rs.35 per cylinder.

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