At Least 50 Injured During Strike Against Price Hikes
CALCUTTA, India (AP) _ A 24-hour general strike against government price hikes paralyzed India’s largest city Tuesday and officials reported at least 50 people were injured when police fired on rioters or in other violence.
The protest, observed throughout communist-ruled West Bengal state, came one day after a crippling strike in the capital of New Delhi against the policies of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s government.
West Bengal’s leftist parties sponsored the strike to protest increases in the price of cooking gas, gasoline, kerosene and other essential products.
At least 28 people were wounded when police opened fire in three industrial suburbs of Calcutta to disperse clashing supporters and opponents of the strike, state Chief Minister Jyoti Basu said.
Police reported 22 people, including eight policemen, were injured in shooting and rock-throwing incidents in other districts.
United News of India said a pro-government mill worker was seriously injured when a striker threw a homemade bomb at him, and two tea-stall owners who tried to open their shops were stabbed and beaten.
The news agency also said at least 15 people, including 10 policemen, were injured in clashes in the neighboring state of Orissa and about 150 people were arrested.
A 24-hour strike against the price hikes also was held Tuesday in the tiny communist-ruled northeast state of Tripura.
Calcutta’s normally teeming streets were deserted as buses, taxis, cars, trams and rickshaws stayed off the roads. Schools, shops and offices were closed in the city of more than 10 million residents.
Trains were canceled as protesters squatted on tracks, and domestic and international flights from Calcutta were canceled.
″Nothing is moving,″ said Basu. ″This proves how people resent the government’s decision to raise prices. We demand the government withdraw its ill-conceived move.″
After a national outcry, the government rolled back the price hikes last week, but they were not reduced to anywhere near the levels before the Feb. 1 increase. The government has said the increases are needed to raise additional revenue to cover budget spending.