India government under fire over fuel prices, opposition unites for protests

India government under fire over fuel prices, opposition unites for protests

The protest has been called by Congress and Left parties against the spiralling cost of petrol and diesel.

By IANS/Reuters

Published: Mon 10 Sep 2018, 8:01 AM

Last updated: Mon 10 Sep 2018, 5:06 PM

Nationwide protests against record high petrol and diesel prices shut down businesses, government offices and schools in many parts of India on Monday, and in some places protesters blocked trains and roads and vandalised vehicles.

Gearing up for a general election less than nine months away and assembly elections expected in some states later this year, opposition parties banded together to organise their first protest action in a joint campaign to stir discontent with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government.
The protests turned violent in some states. Television images showed protesters breaking car and bus windows in Patna, the state capital of Bihar, and protesters blocked roads with burning tyres there and elsewhere, including in Modi's home state of Gujarat.

Taxes on petrol and diesel, which account for more than a third of retail fuel prices, are one of the biggest sources of income for the government, and one of the most emotive issues for voters.
Past governments have usually lowered taxes whenever international oil prices shot up, but Modi's administration has made little concession so far.
Rahul leads Opposition's 'Bharat Bandh'
Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday reached Rajghat to participate in the nationwide shutdown protest or 'Bharat bandh' called by the party against rising fuel prices.
This was Gandhi's first public appearance since he returned from Kailash Mansarovar yatra. He had embarked on the yatra on August 31.
He paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at his memorial before joining other opposition leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot in the protest.
The protest has been called by Congress and Left parties against the spiralling cost of petrol and diesel which have reached record levels. It is being supported by several opposition parties.
Opposition blocks railway in Mumbai
As petrol prices shot up to Rs 89.97 in Maharashtra's Parbhani - the highest in India - the Opposition Congress staged a 'rail-roko' agitation here as part of the party-sponsored nationwide shutdown to protest rising fuel prices.

Parbhani District Petrol Dealers Association (PDPDA) President Sanjay Deshmukh said that while petrol was nearly touching the psychological barrier of Rs 90 per litre, (Rs 89.97), diesel prices stood at Rs 77.92 on Monday.

Elsewhere in Maharashtra, petrol was Rs 88 and diesel at Rs 76, said All India Petrol Dealers Association (AIPDA) spokesperson Ali Daruwala, besides various local tax additions.

The all-India anti-fuel price hike shutdown got underway in different parts of Maharashtra with all parties, barring the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena, joining in wholeheartedly.

Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan and Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam led thousands of activists to stage a noisy protest outside the Andheri station bus depot, and later they got down on the railway tracks, shouting anti-government slogans.

Several leaders including former ministers Naseem Khan, Manikrao Thakre, Suresh Shetty, joined the agitation as police maintained strict security at Andheri.

However, suburban trains, BEST buses, schools and colleges functioned normally, though shops and commercial establishments downed shutters in many localities, including pockets where the opposition is influential.

Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists also led aggressive protests in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Pune, Nashik and others areas of the state.

As per preliminary reports, the shutdown has elicited mixed response in urban centres, but widespread support in the semi-urban and rural hinterland which have been badly hit by the spiraling fuel prices.

The shutdown has been supported by Nationalist Congress Party, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (S), RPI (G), Peasant and Workers Party, Left Parties, Swabhimani Shetkari Party, Peoples Republican Party.
Partial response in Telangana, Andhra
A day-long Bharat bandh or nationwide shutdown called by the Congress and Left parties to protest rising fuel prices evoked partial response in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on Monday.

Bus services were affected since early morning in both the Telugu states. Many private educational institutions also remained closed.

Activists of the Congress and the Left parties launched a sit-in at the depots of state road transport corporations to prevent buses from plying on the roads.

Leaders of Congress, Left parties, Jana Sena and trade unions affiliated to them were arrested in Hyderabad and other towns in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretaries Saleem Ahmed and Srinivasan Krishnan led the protests in Mahabubnagar and Karimnagar.

Ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana is not supporting the shutdown call.

Though Andhra Pradesh's ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is also not officially supporting the shutdown, its activists in both the states joined the protests against rise in prices of petrol and diesel.

Raising slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the protestors took to streets, staging road blockades and organising rallies.
Normal life unaffected in Tamil Nadu

Normal life was unaffected in Tamil Nadu on Monday due to a nationwide strike called by the Congress and supported by other opposition parties to protest against the rise in oil prices.
Schools, colleges, offices - private, public and government - functioned as usual and public transport plied on the roads but in lesser numbers.
Suburban trains also operated as usual.
Shops remained closed in few places in the state including Nagercoil, Mannargudi, Tiruvarur, as per reports reaching here.
However, bus services to neighbouring Karnataka and Kerala states were affected. The buses operated only upto the Tamil Nadu border as the strike got good response in those two states.

Partial shutdown in Himachal

Banks and commercial establishments were largely opened while shops in some towns of Himachal Pradesh were closed on the protest call by the Congress over the rise in fuel prices.
However, there was no report of traffic being held up due to the strike. There was also no report of violence anywhere, police officials here said.
However, private bus operators across the state joined the day-long protest, demanding a hike in bus fares.
"The protest is being organized across the state in a silent way without forcing anyone to shut their shops and establishments," a Congress leader told IANS here.
The impact of the Congress shutdown was more in the state capital Shimla and in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial area in Solan district and Kala Amb in Sirmaur.
There was a partial shutdown in Solan, Dharamsala, Kangra, Palampur, Mandi, Rampur, Kullu and Una and Hamirpur towns.
Rail, road traffic hit in Bihar
 Rail and road traffic was hit across Bihar on Monday due to a nationwide shutdown called by the Congress against the hike in fuel prices.
The shutdown is being supported by the opposition Rashtryia Janata Dal (RJD), Left Parties and Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM).
Hundreds of Congress and other opposition parties leaders and workers took to the streets since early Monday in different parts of Bihar.
Over a dozen long route trains were halted at Patna, Gaya, Bhojpur, Jehanabad, Bhagalpur and Muzaffarpur railway stations.
At several places, the activists were seen burning tyres on roads to protest.
They also raised slogans against the Central government and Prime Minister Narendar Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Additional security have been deployed all across the state to maintain law and order.
However, no untoward incident was reported anywhere.

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