Strike against fuel prices rise brings Tripura to a halt


Agartala : Life came to a standstill Thursday in the northeastern state of Tripura as the ruling Left Front called a 12-hour general strike to protest the hike in prices of transport fuel and cooking gas.

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Opposition Trinamool Congress has also called for a dawn-to-dusk strike across the state Friday on the same issue. The central government Wednesday announced an increase of Rs.5 and Rs.3 per litre in prices of petrol and diesel respectively, and a hike of Rs.50 per cooking gas cylinder.

Most markets, shops and business establishments, government and semi-government offices and educational institutions remained closed in the state. Roads wore a deserted look. Rail and air traffic services were disrupted.

Bus services between Tripura and Bangladesh and other northeastern states were cancelled.

Government-run carrier Alliance Air and other private airlines either cancelled or rescheduled many flights in the Agartala-Kolkata-Guwahati-Silchar routes.

“The strike is peaceful across the state and no untoward incident was reported from anywhere,” said police spokesman Nepal Das.

“The dawn-to-dusk strike was total with people expressing their agony over the central government’s decision to raise the prices of petroleum products,” said Gautam Das, state spokesman of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the main member of the ruling Left Front.

In view of the strike, the Tripura government postponed Thursday’s World Environment Day programmes to Saturday.

Examinations at educational institutions, including Tripura University, have been deferred in view of the shutdown.

Calling a 12-hour shutdown Friday, state’s Trinamool Congress chairman Arun Chandra Bhowmik criticised the Left Front’s muted response to the price hike and termed it a “government-sponsored holiday”, as the Left supports the central government.

Reacting to the government’s decision to increase the prices of transport fuel and cooking gas, Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said the move would further push up prices of all commodities.

The CPI-M alleged that the central government had acted in the interest of private oil companies and big businessmen.

But the chief minister said it would not be possible for the Tripura government to cut sales taxes on fuels.

“If the Tripura government cuts tax on petrol and diesel, implementation of social and service-oriented programmes for the welfare of the people would be badly affected as Tripura depends on the central government for financial support,” said Sarkar, also a member of the CPI-M Politburo.