New Delhi: Life was hit in several states, especially Left-ruled West Bengal and Kerala, on Saturday as opposition parties held protests against the fuel price hike and the government`s "indifference" to the sufferings of the common man.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties separately staged demonstrations in the national capital and in different states against the government`s decision Friday to increase the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas.
Normal life was badly hit in the Left-ruled states of West Bengal and Kerala as most public transport went off the roads as part of the protests.
Buses, taxis, and autorickshaws kept off the roads and ferry services on rivers did not ply in West Bengal following a public transport strike called by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) in West Bengal against the fuel price hike.
Commuters were greatly inconvenienced as they either had to walk for hours or had to shell out astronomical sums to board the handful of buses and taxis that appeared on the roads. There were reports of the strike supporters using strong-arm tactics to force people out of taxis, but there were no major untoward incidents.
A shutdown called by the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala saw most shops and offices closed and public transport off the roads.
Commuters had a tough time getting transport from railway stations and bus stops and many complained about the frequent shutdowns in the state.
Meanwhile, the ruling Left Front in Tripura Saturday called for a 12-hour shutdown in the state Monday to protest against the hike in fuel prices.
In the national capital, senior BJP leader VK Malhotra and the party`s Delhi unit chief Vijender Gupta led the protest at the busy ITO junction.
Addressing protesting party workers after blocking traffic, Gupta said the Congress-led Central government was not concerned about the sufferings of the common man.
"Fuel hike is a result of the corrupt practices of the Congress-led government," Gupta said, alleging that the government was hand-in-gloves with big corporate.
The Left parties organised a demonstration at Jantar Mantar in Delhi demanding a roll-back of the fuel price hike.
In Uttar Pradesh, top BJP leaders were detained in Lucknow for staging a demonstration against the hike in fuel prices.
Led by party veteran and Lucknow MP Lalji Tandon, state BJP chief Surya Pratap Shahi and senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Kalraj Mishra, the demonstrators had barely stepped out of Shaheed Smarak (Martyrs Memorial) to march down to the state Assembly, when they were intercepted by police. They were arrested when they tried to defy the curbs on protests.
In the state`s Agra city, protesting BJP workers clashed with police, who used fire brigade engines as water cannons to disperse them.
In Bhubaneswar, members of Orissa`s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) staged protests at various places in the state against the fuel price hike, saying it would "bring a lot of hardship to the people".
While the BJD members staged protests inside the Assembly, party workers and leaders staged a march in Bhubaneswar shouting slogans.
An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday said price of the petrol "will be market determined both at the refinery gate and retail level".
As a result, petrol will now be costlier by Rs 3.5 a litre.
Simultaneously, the government hiked the prices of diesel by Rs 2 a litre, kerosene -- known as the poor man`s fuel and traditionally spared during periodic fuel price hikes -- by Rs 3 a litre and cooking gas by Rs 35 per cylinder.