Initiating a major campaign against price rise and holding the Manmohan Singh government responsible, the Left parties on Friday announced the launch of a ‘jail bharo' agitation on April 8 across the country.

On that day, there would be mass picketing and ‘court arrest' programmes outside Central government offices in all district headquarters, they said. Some 25 lakh people will take part in the programme demanding immediate steps to curb price rise and for strengthening the public distribution system, implementation of land reforms and creation of employment opportunities.

At a mass rally here, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said: “The government has failed in controlling prices…it is shirking responsibility putting the blame on State governments. The April 8 agitation will be the biggest ‘jan andolan' [mass movement] by the people…if the government does not listen we will work against it during the remainder of the budget session.”

Charging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with favouring the capitalists, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan said Dr. Singh had been extending both support and benefits to the corporate sector.

Mr. Bardhan said Left parties would move a cut motion when the Finance Bill was taken up for consideration and passage in the Lok Sabha, demanding a rollback of duties on petroleum products announced in the Union budget.

The rally demanded that the government control price rise, ensure right to food and health and strengthen public distribution system among others. The UPA government that came to power promising to work for the ‘aam aadmi' (common man) had jettisoned the approach to favour the rich and corporate sector, the leaders said.

“The corporate sector has been given concessions worth Rs.80,000 crore while it imposed Rs. 60,000 by way of indirect taxes on the working class,” Mr. Dasgupta said.

Mr. Yechury argued that had the government taken simple steps such as distributing 2.75 lakh tonnes of surplus food grains from the godowns for supply through they public distribution system, the prices would have come down. He said the government was reluctant to ban futures trading even as speculators booked Rs.15 lakh crore profit. Similarly, it did not take any action against hoarders.

He said the rise in prices of essential commodities had created a situation right in the first year of the government that it had started counting its support in the Lok Sabha, something usually done towards the end of the tenure.

The Parliament Street stretch from the Sardar Patel roundabout towards Rajiv Chowk was awash with red flags. The venue was the culmination point of the ‘March to Parliament' that wound through a corridor connecting the Ram Lila Grounds in central Delhi to the heart of the city.

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