Left Front, Trinamool call for shutdowns in Bengal over fuel price hike

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Kolkata, June 4 : The Central Government's declaration of an across-the-board fuel priced hike on Wednesday, has begun to have its repercussions in both West Bengal and Bihar.

In West Bengal, the ruling Left Front and the opposition Trinamool Congress announced state-wide shutdowns on June 5 and 6 respectively in protest against the Central Government's decision.

"Today's decision by the UPA Government passing a tremendous burden on the people could have been avoided," said Left Front Chairman Biman Bose.

Describing the price hike of Rs.5 on petrol, Rs.3 on diesel and Rs.50 on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as an 'anti-people' step, Bose said the impact of it would be felt almost immediately on the prices of essential commodities, and could push inflation to a high of 10 per cent.

For the record, the inflation is presently pegged at 8.1 percent

Accusing the UPA Government of ignoring the Left's alternative proposals, including taxation on private oil companies which were exploring for oil and 'making tremendous profits', Bose said that a fitting response was in the offing for the former.

The Trinamool Congress dubbed the fuel hike as 'unfortunate and unprecedented'.

Questioning the Left Front's shutdown call, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said: "The Left parties are supporting the Central Government and in the same breath is allowing the government to take such a decision. Why this cheap drama?"

She said the common man, oppressed by the abnormal price hike of essential commodities, would be further burdened.

In Patna, Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also strongly criticized the fuel price hike, saying that the Central Government should have considered other alternatives.

Accusing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his UPA Government of "taking the easy way out" in dealing with global oil price hike, Kumar said that his government would look for ways to ease the burden of the common man.

'The (State) Cabinet has met and decided that taxes will be adjusted to provide relief to the people. The officials of the Finance and Sales Tax Departments have been given instructions to look for viable solutions.

Former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi defended the Central Government's decision to hike the fuel prices, saying the latter had no alternative but to do so.

"The raw materials are very costly and we have had to import them from other countries. There was no other option. There is only a Rs.50 hike on LPG," she said.

"We had been advising the government on policy matters relating to the fuel prices. We have been discussing them how to handle the situation, despite that, the government has increased the price. And we are protesting against the decision. We will express our agitation across the country," said Nilotpal Basu, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

"This is an economic terror unleashed on the people of this country. The Prime Minister till recently was saying that you can control prices. I don't know what economics is he talking about by increasing the price of petrol and diesel. He has unleashed another action has been taken against the people, this is a mess of the economy, the UPA Government is responsible. This will amount to an upheaval in the nation. It's a black day in the country," said BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

"It is not the result of the increase in the international prices today. To some extent it is mismanagement of the resources of the country. Total mismanagement to the disadvantage of the common man who has to shell has out from the hard earning day to day and the whole thing, his life is upset," said Surinder, a local.

"Transportation is going to become more expensive where as people's salaries are not going to increase. So it's going to hit the common man definitely. Also the air fare, the airlines are going to increase as well so that is going to become out of the reach of the common person. The petrol and diesel definitely has a big impact on the life of the common man so the government must try and do something to try and control it," said R.S. Sondhi.

The mixed responses to the hike in fuel prices came hours after Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora had announced that as of Wednesday midnight the price of petrol would go up from Rs.45.53 a litre to Rs.50.53 a litre in Delhi, while that of diesel would go up from Rs.31.48 to Rs.34.48 a litre.

"For last two years we have seen hardly any price rise in LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) and petrol and kerosene but you know the short recovery for the losses incurred by the PSUs (Public Sector Units) ....that it is just not possible and huge amount of deficit has accrued. . almost 2 lakh 45 000 crore. I am very grateful to the Prime Minister who called the meeting of Political Affairs Committee and today a decision is taken," Deora added.

After 10 days of debate over the price increase, the cabinet also agreed to cut the import duty on crude oil to support refining and retailing firms like Indian Oil Corp, Bharat Petroleum Corp and Hindustan Petroleum Corp.

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