Kolkata, July 26 (IANS) CPI-M labour arm CITU Thursday called a 24-hour transport strike across West Bengal July 31 to protest against the increase in petrol and diesel prices, prompting an angry Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to threaten public vehicles with cancellation of licences if they stayed off the roads.
"We are left with no option other than calling a total strike across the state July 31. Government and private buses, minibuses, auto rickshaws, trucks, lorry and truck unions will take part in the strike," said CITU state president Shyamal Chakraborty.
Petrol and diesel prices went up in seven states, including West Bengal, Wednesday following the readjustments done by the oil marketing companies based on local levies.
After the readjustments, petrol in Kolkata has become dearer by Rs.2.52 a litre at Rs.76.13 per litre. Diesel has also risen by Rs.0.92 per litre to sell at Rs.44.66.
Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress supremo, has also threatened to hit the streets if the hike is not reversed.
"She is hoodwinking the people," said Chakraborty.
"On the one hand her party is the second largest constituent in the centre's ruling UPA (United Progressive Alliance), and on the other hand she is railing against the decisions in Kolkata."
Demanding withdrawal of the increased rates, Chakraborty also rapped Banerjee for refusing to give subsidy on petroleum and diesel prices.
"When she was in the opposition, she used to regularly demand that the state government lower taxes on petro products whenever the prices were hiked. But she seems to have undergone a change of heart after coming to power."
Soon after, Banerjee went on the offensive and said her party workers would oppose the strike.
In a strong reaction, she said her government would withdraw the Rs.600 crore subsidy paid to the state transport corporations annually on account of salaries if the employees take part in the strike.
"We will consider cancelling licences of public transport if these vehicles keep off the roads," she said. "Some shameless people have hatched a conspiracy. The CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) has not done anything during the 34 years it was in power in the state. They should know that the people will not tolerate their actions.
Asking transport operators to hit the roads July 31, she said the government would give protection if their vehicles were damaged by strikers.
Replying to a query, she said if the strike was not called off, Trinamool workers would take out processions in all areas, demanding the CPI-M pay back to the state exchequer the Rs.2 lakh crore loan the Left Front government had burdened the state with during their rule.