Members of the All Bengal Electricity Consumer Association were yesterday detained for staging a demonstration at the Chowk Bazar in Darjeeling town against the increase in power charges in the hills. The agitators were also stopped from burning the effigy of state electricity minister Souben Deb, with the police saying no permission was granted to holding any demonstration.
ABECA general secretary Shankar Pal accused the Trinamool Congress government of working against the interests of the common people in spite of its promise to mitigate the expending burden of citizens. “When the TMC came to power, one of the issues they had promised to take up in earnest was not to let electricity usage charges increase. However, charges have been increased twice now, and the state government has failed to take any action. In fact, electricity charges in the hills have been increased by 11 per cent so far,” he said.
Pal said yesterday’s demonstration was part of the ABECA’s pan-Bengal programme against the raise in electricity usage charges. “People are already suffering due to increase in prices of various essential commodities. Now with higher power usage charges, their burden will only double,” he said.
A rally was organised from the railway station to Chowk Bazar in the morning. But the ABECA was restrained by the police from burning the effigy of the state electricity minister. “Ours is a peaceful and democratic protest against issues that are anti-people. We condemn the police action and refuse to be suppressed. We ask the people of the hills to extend their support to us in protesting anti-people policies,” said Pal.
However, with tensions growing, the police allowed the agitators to demonstrate at Chowk Bazar for 10 minutes or so before dispersing them. Those detained were also let free after the protest programme. The hill people are already bearing the brunt of huge dues accumulated occurred during the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s statehood agitation from 2008 to 2011. The GJM had asked the people not to pay their electricity and phone bills as also taxes as part of the non-cooperation movement against the state government during the agitation period.
[Via: EOIC, file pic]
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