The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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House on fire over tariff

Calcutta, Dec. 17: The abolition of cross-subsidy in power tariff today bridged the ideological differences between political parties in the state, which condemned the order of the West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission.

The Left Front said it will organise protest rallies from tomorrow, the SUCI called a 24-hour Bengal bandh on January 27 and the Trinamul Congress decided not to oppose the shutdown.

Trinamul leaders will meet some time later to decide whether they will “actively support” the bandh to protest a move that will hit the common man most.

The Congress, too, voiced its opposition to the regulatory commission’s order that slashed power subsidy in one fell sweep but it was yet to chalk out the protest plans.

The House witnessed pandemonium over the issue today with Opposition MLAs setting a copy of the regulatory commission’s report on fire.

Soon after question hour, SUCI member Debaprasad Sarkar tabled a motion seeking an adjournment of the House to discuss the “burning issue”.

Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim, however, disallowed the motion. Sarkar was only allowed to read it out.

When Sarkar was reading out his adjournment motion, slogan-shouting Trinamul members, including Saugata Roy, Sadhan Pandey, Tapas Roy and Sonali Guha, rushed towards him and forced him towards the Speaker’s chair.

When a section of the MLAs took a turn towards the well, one from the group set afire the papers in Sarkar’s hand.

Opposition legislators raised their pitch against the slash in cross-subsidy at this point and accused the government of engineering the move to help a private power utility.

The entire Opposition staged a walkout soon after. Outside, in the lobby, they shouted at the top of their voices and set more papers on fire. The MLAs stood around the round table in the hall and set fire to bundles of paper, much to the delight of the waiting camera crews.

Though the front lined up rallies to protest the abolition of cross-subsidy in the city tomorrow, its legislators did not participate in the agitation inside the Assembly.

CPM’s Rabin Deb and RSP’s Tapan Hore drew the attention of the Speaker and said the abolition would burden common people.

The Front will also launch a signature campaign against the order tomorrow and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister some time later.

“We strongly protest the abolition of cross-subsidy because it will lead to inflated power bills for the common people,” said state CPM secretary Anil Biswas.

State SUCI secretary Prabhas Ghosh said if the government did not intervene and arrange help for the commoners, the party would appeal to consumers to boycott electricity bills altogether.

Echoing Ghosh, Trinamul legislator and leader of Opposition Pankaj Banerjee said the issue will figure prominently at the meeting of the party at Brigade Parade Grounds on January 6.

“We will also ask the consumers to boycott electricity bills from our Brigade meeting,” he said.

Banerjee added that the government “found time to move Supreme Court challenging the high court order against the appointment of the director-general of police but did not find time to move the apex court in the interest of nearly 18 lakh consumers in Calcutta and adjoining areas”.

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