A double bill of bandhs in Bengal from tomorrow

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Kolkata, Jun 4(UNI) West Bengal will witness two successive bandhs tomorrow and Friday as the ruling Left Front and the opposition Trinamool Congress today gave separate calls for dawn-to-dusk shutdown in protest against the hike in the prices of petrol, diesel and domestic LPG.

In a swift move hours after the Centre's announcement for price hike, Left Front Chairman Biman Basu declared a bandh for tomorrow blaming the UPA Government for taking 'anti-people' measure, while Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee called for observing a total strike the next day.

Both the bandhs would be observed from six A.M. to six P.M.

Mr. Basu said the decision had been taken after the Centre turned down the repeated requests of Left parties to adopt an alternative policy to neutralise the effect of the price hike of petroleum in the international market.

"The Centre's decision will severely affect the common people.

We had repeatedly asked the Centre not to go for an increase in the prices of petrol, diesel and LPG in domestic market and instead suggested an alternative policy to spare the people," he said.

Barely two hours after his announcement, Ms.Banerjee gave the call for another bandh alleging that the UPA Government had no right to remain in power.

Describing the fuel price hike as "unfortunate and unprecedented", Ms.Banerjee said the Congress-led coalition Government at the Centre had been pursuing with a 'casual approach' and it had done very little except flattering the CPI(M) in its four-year-rule.

Demanding complete rollback of the increased prices, she said the Centre's decision, with all the cascading effects, would put a heavy burden on the poor.

She ridiculed the CPI(M)-led Front in the state for calling tomorrow's bandh describing it as a 'drama'.

"The CPI(M) could have withdrawn support to the UPA Government long ago had really they fallen apart on policies. If as supporting parties they called the bandh, Trinamool Congress can also call bandh to protest against the government's decision," she said.

The government announced an increase of Rs 5 per litre in the retail price of petrol, Rs 3 for diesel and Rs 50 for domestic LPG from midnight tonight, but left the PDS kerosene untouched.

The hikes, which would provide an additional revenue of Rs 21,123 crore for the beleagured oil marketing companies (OMCs), were approved at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Supporting the Front's decision to go for a strike, CITU, the labour wing of the CPI(M) alleged that the Centre's move was 'indiscriminate and mindless'.

CITU State President Shyamal Chakraborty said the Centre was 'lying' in support of its action which in effect would benefit the private oil companies like Reliance and Essar.

UNI KDG PL KLC1625

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