Eight protesters refuse to take bail


A day after 18 protesters, holding an indefinite hunger strike against the power tariff hike by the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) and the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) were arrested, eight of them refused to take bail and are continuing with the hunger strike in jail on Monday.

The agitation is being held by the People’s Movement Against Power Tariff Hike led by Prasenjit Bose who was formerly associated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Mr. Bose, former convenor of CPI (M)’s research unit, was expelled from the party in June 2012.

“Among those arrested, 10 have been released on bail, while eight others including Mr. Bose refused to take bail and are continuing with the hunger strike in jail,” Subhanil Chowdhury, a spokesperson of the People’s Movement Against Power Tariff Hike and an expelled member of the CPI (M) told The Hindu on Monday.

Earlier Mr. Bose has stated: “there is a hike in approved average tariff of 8% for WBSEDCL and 14% for CESC between 2013-14 and 2014-15. Moreover, the CESC has proposed further hikes in average tariff for 2015-16 and 2016-17 by around 3% each year, while WBSEDCL has proposed a further hike of 6% in 2015-16 and 12% in 2016-17.”

The CESC authorities refused to comment on the matter. “We do not want to make any official comment on the matter,” a CESC spokesperson told The Hindu .

The CESC is the sole power distribution company in Kolkata, Howrah and adjoining areas and caters to around 29 lakh consumers. The State owned WBSEDCL supplies power to nearly 1.5 crore consumers in Bengal.

Interestingly, CPI (M)-led Left Front will hold protest demonstrations on September 9 and 10 in front of Victoria House (CESC’s office in Central Kolkata). While the ruling Trinamool Congress refused to take Mr. Bose’s movement “seriously,” it dubbed CPI (M)’s agitation as a bid to gain “political mileage.”

“The CESC’s monopoly in power distribution (in Kolkata, Howrah and adjoining areas) could not have been possible without the blessing of the Left Front Government and now the CPI (M) is agitating against it as its desperate to find an issue,” TMC MP Saugata Roy told The Hindu .

Pointing out that any hike in power tariff had to be approved by the West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission, Mr. Roy said: “The State Government does not hike power tariff. I wonder whom the CPI (M) is agitating against. It shows their political bankruptcy.”

Even though he denied the TMC’s claim, Prashanta Nandi Chowdhury, general secretary of the CPI (M)-backed Electricity Employees Federation of India, hinted that they support Mr. Bose’s current agitation. “They are organising movement for a positive goal. Why should we oppose it,” he asked.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 11:10:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/eight-protesters-refuse-to-take-bail/article7626697.ece

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