Additional annual burden of Rs.150 cr. on transport corporations

The State government will not increase bus fares in spite of the hike in fuel prices, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said here on Monday.

The government had taken this decision in the interest of people though the hike would place an additional burden of Rs.150 crore a year on transport corporations, he told reporters before emplaning for Chennai after the five-day World Classical Tamil Conference (WCTC).

Responding to a question on the criticism by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Jayalalithaa, that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, as a constituent of the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre, was also to be blamed for the fuel hike, Mr. Karunanidhi said it was because of the intervention of the State government's representatives at the Centre that the hike was much less than what was intended.

The Chief Minister said he felt indebted to President Pratibha Devisingh Patil for having attended the inauguration of the conference despite reports of some parties requesting her not to do so. She chose to ignore the memorandum and inaugurate the WCTC out of deep respect for Tamils.

Though Communist Party of India State secretary D. Pandian was a signatory to the petition given to the President, the party's national secretary D. Raja attended the conference and spoke at length. CPI legislature party leader V. Sivapunniyam also took part in the meet.

Mr. Karunanidhi said that he too had learnt of the memorandum through media reports.

Wondering how Ms. Jayalalithaa concluded that some convicts would be released on the occasion of the conference, Mr. Karunanidhi said no announcement had been made by the government. No news report had appeared, attributing any such plan to the government.

Giving details of the number of convicts released on the occasion of Ms. Jayalalithaa's birthday during the AIADMK regime of 1991-1996, he said when newspapers published such statements of hers, they should recall instances of release of convicts. Asked about his earlier statement that he would like to step aside from the position of power after the conference, Mr. Karunanidhi said he had never talked about any plan to retire.

To a question on the possible advancement of Assembly elections, he replied: “We have just held a massive conference. Is this [the issue of elections] important now?”