'Anti-tariff stir to continue'

HYDERABAD, SEPT. 2. The Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee president, Mr. M. Satyanarayana Rao has asserted that the agitation against the hike in power tariff would continue, notwithstanding the police firing on the agitators on August 28.Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, he also denied any conflict between the APCC-I and the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) on the course of agitation. He claimed that the Congress-I president, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, appreciated the role of both the PCC and the CLP in the anti- tariff stir. There was bound to be some difference of opinion in a democratic party. But the high command did not react adversely as reported in the media, he said.

Mr. Rao said senior party leaders would meet on September 8 to decide on the future strategy to sustain the agitation. Meanwhile, he would be writing to the DCC presidents to organise demonstrations at the Electricity Revenue Offices (EROs) as part of the campaign to dissuade people from paying electricity bills.

He also rebutted the newspaper reports suggesting that the agitation had fizzled out due to ``strategic errors'' by the Congress and the left parties resulting in the police firing. The Chief Minister, Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu, was under the ``wrong impression'' that he was able to suppress the movement by scaring the agitators with police firing. But the campaign against the tariff hike would be carried out with renewed vigour, he said.

Answering questions, Mr. Satyanarayana Rao said the party would not find it difficult to enforce non-payment of electricity bills in the rural areas but it would face problem in the urban areas. He appealed to the consumers to cooperate with the organisers of the agitation by not paying the bills. In fact, the impact of the steep increase in tariff was not yet felt by consumers as the bills supplied hitherto did not fully represent the ``actual hike''.

The PCC(I) president reiterated the party's demand for a judicial enquiry into the police firing in which two persons were killed and an ex gratia of Rs. 5 lakhs each to the kin of those killed. By not accepting the demand, the Government was only admitting its guilt, he said.He said a party functionary from Nellore district, Mr. Sridhar Reddy, commenced an indefinite fast in protest against the police harassment. He was implicated in false cases.

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