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Mamata march today against petrol hike

Calcutta, May 25: Mamata Banerjee will lead a march in south Calcutta tomorrow afternoon to protest the steep rise in petrol prices.

The procession will start from the Jadavpur police station at 5pm and end at the Hazra crossing.

CPM youth wing DYFI will organise a 15-minute chakka jam on the same issue from noon at 15 intersections in Calcutta. Similar protests will be held by the outfit in the districts from 5pm.

Trinamul leaders said that with Mamata leading the march, a big turnout was a certainty.

Tomorrow’s Trinamul rally will be its second protest march in the past three days over the Rs 7.85 hike in petrol prices. Yesterday, the party had organised a procession from the Hazra crossing to the Gandhi statue on Mayo Road. The hike was announced on Wednesday.

“Many of our supporters could not turn up at the rally because it was not pre-planned. Considering the oppressive heat, we decided to organise tomorrow’s march in the evening,” a Trinamul leader said.

The chief minister had condemned the price hike, saying her party would protest the rise but not “destabilise the political and economic situation” by pulling out of the UPA.

Mamata had last hit the streets in March. She had then walked from the Jadavpur 8B bus stand to Gariahat to counter a protest march organised by the CPM.

As both the ruling and the Opposition parties had not initially announced when they would organise their procession and road blocks tomorrow, Calcutta police officers were worried that the timings could clash.

“After coming to know the timings, we made necessary arrangements so that there is no problem in manning the protest programmes,” a police officer said.

Senior traffic police officers apprehend that traffic will be affected along key arteries in south Calcutta, including Rash Behari Avenue and SP Mukherjee Road, during Mamata’s procession.

“A congregation at Hazra in the evening will result in traffic diversions. But we will deploy additional forces to ensure that the inconvenience is minimum,” the officer said.

Left Front leaders today held a meeting at Alimuddin Street and decided that it would go ahead with its protests against the price hike from tomorrow to May 31, when a rally would be held at Rani Rasmoni Avenue.

The Left sought to distance itself from the BJP’s May 31 Bharat bandh, saying it had decided earlier that protests would be organised on that day.

CPM state secretary Biman Bose said: “After the Parliament session ended, four Left parties had met in Delhi and decided to organise protests on May 31 against the petrol price hike. The Left parties’ decision was conveyed to me on that day (May 23) at 1pm. The BJP announced the bandh in the evening. So, there is no reason to say that our decision was taken in consultation with the BJP.’’

On May 31, the Left will demonstrate in front of the offices of all DMs and take out processions in Calcutta.

Bose said the state government could reduce the sales tax on petrol, including cess, rather than the chief minister hitting the streets.