Protestors to siege energy ministry on July 14
The Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources will face a blockade by Left Democratic Alliance (LDA) activists if gas prices are not cut, declared the party observing a half-day nationwide hartal without any major violence.
At a blockade of Dhaka’s Paltan intersection, LDA coordinator and general secretary of United Communist League Mosharraf Hosen Nannu said they will encircle the ministry with a procession from the National Press Club.
The alliance will hold a conference on July 19 where more decisions will follow, he announced on Sunday.
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The Progressive Students' Alliance, a left-leaning student platform, blocked Dhaka’s Shahbagh intersection and staged demonstrations there for 6 hours, starting 6:30am.
They also set fire to wood at the busy intersection, causing huge traffic gridlocks in other areas, where people were seen walking because of the jams.
Strike supporters vandalized a bus at the Paltan intersection in the morning. Picketers broke bus windows during the shutdown, said Mohammad Mahmudul Haque, officer-in-charge of Paltan police station.
No one was arrested in this connection, he added.
In another incident, citizen group Nagarik Oikya extended their support to the hartal, blocking the thoroughfare in front of the National Press Club in the morning. However, party activists lifted the blockade around 9:30am.
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The LDA called the shutdown program on July 1, a day after natural gas prices were raised.
Vehicular movement on Dhaka roads and elsewhere was normal. Office-goers were at their respective workplaces and students attended their academic institutions.
BNP, Gono Forum, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Nagorik Oikya, Bangladesh National Awami Party (NAP), Bangladesh Khilafat Majlish, National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, Ganasamhati Andolon, Communist Party of Bangladesh, and a number of other political opposition groups have already thrown their weight behind the general strike.
The government raised natural gas prices, effective from July 1, in eight categories, including household users, despite persistent opposition from consumer rights groups.
According to the latest announcement of the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC), the new weighted average price of gas at the consumer level is set at Tk9.8 per cubic foot, a 32% increase from Tk7.38.
Hartal has lost its appeal, says Quader
Describing hartals as not an effective tool for democratic movements anymore, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said it has lost its appeal as people hardly respond to such programmes.
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"The gas price hike is realistic as the authorities concerned have to give subsidies despite the rise in prices," he said, speaking at a press briefing after a presidium meeting of the ruling Awami League at its office.
The ‘subsidies’ mentioned by Obaidul Quader are in reference to balancing out the higher cost of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) being imported from Qatar.
On June 9, the state minister for power, energy, and mineral resources, said the government would require an additional Tk14,000 crore subsidy for LNG imports if gas prices were not to be hiked again.
'Gas tariff hike to benefit people'
People will directly benefit from the recent hike in gas prices, Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzaque told Parliament yesterday, on behalf of State Minister for Power and Energy, Nasrul Hamid, who was not present in Parliament.
The minister made the statement in responding to a supplementary question from Jasod MP Shirin Akhtar.
"Gas prices have been increased several times...there were reactions against those moves, too. I'm admitting that common people are somewhat affected by these government moves," he said.
He also said gas prices have been ‘adjusted’ to ensure the uninterrupted supply of power and gas, and various positive effects on setting up industries, factories, and mills have to be taken into consideration.