Ride against rise: Mamata covers 6.9 km on scooter to protest fuel price hike
Kolkata: In a unique protest against the Narendra Modi government's "anti-people policies" that resulted in an abnormal hike in petrol, diesel and LPG prices, for the first time ever in the country's history, a woman Chief Minister not only rode pillion on an electric scooter covering around 6.9 km to reach the state Secretariat, Nabanna, from her residence at Kalighat on Thursday morning but also returned home riding the same two-wheeler after the day's work.
Soon after reaching the Secretariat, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee gave a call to all Opposition political parties irrespective of their ideologies to launch countrywide protests against the spiralling fuel prices. She stated that the Trinamool Congress would intensify the stir across the state from Friday.
She also demanded either Prime Minister Narendra Modi should slash the price of an LPG cylinder — keeping it below Rs 400 — or quit. When BJP had formed the government at the Centre in 2014, the price of an LPG cylinder was less than Rs 400.
Registering a four-fold increase in the price of LPG cylinders in the past month, the cost went up to Rs 820.50 per cylinder. Banerjee's Cabinet colleague Firhad Hakim, Urban Development and Municipal Affairs minister, rode the electric bike with the Chief Minister as a pillion who wore an apron-like poster bearing slogans against the fuel price hike.
The poster read: "What is in your mouth? Petrol price hike. Diesel price hike. Cooking Gas price hike." Hakim was also wearing the "protest poster".
Around 11.30 am, Banerjee left her Kalighat residence and reached Nabanna passing through Kalighat Road, SP Mukherjee Road, AJC Bose Road and Vidyasagar Setu. She covered around 6.9 km in 30 minutes.
But, before entering the state Secretariat, she held a press conference sitting on the electric scooter itself and hit out at the Centre for its failure to control the rising fuel prices leading to "skyrocketing of prices of essentials".
Surprising everyone, after her day's work, she came out of the Secretariat at around 5 pm riding the two-wheeler. As it was her first attempt, some security personnel helped her learn biking. She not only rode the scooter but was found shouting slogans raising her hand against the Modi government labelling it to be "anti-people in nature".
She rode the bike almost up to the middle of Vidyasagar Setu before allowing Hakim to take her back home. When the scooter reached Harish Mukherjee Road, she got down from the two-wheeler and made an attempt to ride it once again.
The onlookers waved at her congratulating her unique protest and many were found capturing videos of the rare moment on their phones. Trinamool Congress supporters shouted slogans — "Maa Mati Manush zindabad" — when Banerjee passed through their areas.
After reaching home, she addressed the media and asked as to why the prices of petrol and diesel touched Rs 91.12 per litre and Rs 84.20 per litre respectively when the price of crude oil in the international market is half the price (54.79 US dollar per barrel) in 2014 (105.29 US dollar per barrel). She also attacked the Centre for withdrawing Rs 4,000 crore subsidies on kerosene.
There were several occasions earlier when she rode pillion to different spots to attend political rallies. On July 21 in 1992, when she had reached the Esplanade area on a two-wheeler and subsequently led the protest march to Writers Buildings demanding "no identity card, no vote". Thirteen people were killed in police firing on that day, which is now observed as Sahid Divas.
Once in Jangalmahal before 2011 and again in 2013 at Kamduni, she was found reaching spots on two-wheelers. It may be mentioned that on Monday RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav drove a tractor to reach the Bihar Assembly protesting against the three new farm laws and a spike in prices of petrol, diesel, and cooking gas.