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Left takes to the streets
* SP workers stop trains
* Protest petro price hike
Tribune News Service And PTI

  • Left leaders court arrest
  • Samajwadi Party workers stop trains, block highways
  • Trucks go off the road
  • Strike complete in Kerala

New Delhi, June 13
The Left parties, joined by regional forces like the Samajwadi Party and Telugu Desam Party, today staged street protests to demand the rollback of the hike in fuel prices as the Communists said the UPA government could not take their support for granted.

In Uttar Pradesh the ruling Samajwadi Party’s workers stopped many trains and blocked highways at several places.

Strikes by truckers against the price hike that coincided with the protests, however, affected transport services in Orissa, Tripura and Madhya Pradesh.

In Delhi, CPM leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury and CPI’s A B Bardhan courted arrest at the Parliament Street police station with a large number of Left activists. Leaders from the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Janata Dal-Secular were also present.

Left leaders said the demonstration was to mount pressure on the government to reverse its “anti-people” decision and made it clear that the issue would be raised in the UPA-Left Coordination Committee meeting slated for Wednesday. They, however, said the stir was not a threat to the stability of the two-year-old government which was established to keep “communal forces” at bay.

Addressing the gathering, Karat ridiculed the move by Congress-led state governments to reduce state-level taxes on petrol and diesel as “foolishness” and said the Centre should first reduce taxes to make fuel cheaper instead of passing the entire burden on the states.

The hike in fuel prices could have been avoided if the government implemented the alternatives suggested by the Left parties, including slashing customs and excise duties on crude imports, he said.

“We have also suggested that the oil cess fund, amounting to a whopping Rs 1,25,000 crore, could be converted into a price stabilisation fund so that entire burden of global crude price hike was not passed onto the consumers,” Karat said. He added that if the Centre reduces the taxes, left-ruled states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura may think about it.

In West Bengal, the ruling Left Front organised sit-ins before the offices of oil PSUs.

Normal life in Kerala, another Left-ruled state, was paralysed by a dawn-to-dusk strike called by trade unions. Shops and business establishments remained closed while attendance in government offices was thin.

Over 5,000 Left activists, including CPI secretary D Raja, were taken into custody across Tamil Nadu when they tried to picket Central government offices and roads.

In Uttar Pradesh, train services were affected and minor incidents of violence reported during the strike against the price hike. Long-distance trains were stranded as Samajwadi Party workers squatted on the tracks and stray incidents of violence occurred when the protestors forcibly closed down shops and businesses, the police said.

Samajwadi Party workers also blocked roads at several places in the state, including the busy Grand Trunk Road and the Lucknow highway.

The Telugu Desam Party joined the CPI-M for the protests in Andhra Pradesh, holding protest rallies in Hyderabad and several district headquarters during which their workers courted arrest. 

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