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General Strike in Bangladesh

January 9, 2002

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ Police fired tear gas shells to break up hundreds of protesters trying to enforce a general strike Wednesday against increases in government-administered prices of fuel and utility services.

The protesters, belonging to main opposition Awami League party, also clashed with police elsewhere as they blocked traffic and shut down schools and shops in Dhaka, the capital.

Buses, trucks and cars were off the roads. Many people walked to work or hired rickshaws, which the protesters did not block.

The one-day strike also crippled life in other cities in Bangladesh, the Awami League party of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina claimed.

``The government has added to the miseries of the people by raising the prices of the essential services and products,″ party spokesman Zillur Rahman.

Fuel prices were raised by 21 percent late last month, while gas, water and electricity became costlier by an average 15 percent from the New Year’s Day.

The government said the increase was prompted by huge losses at the state-run companies that marketed fuel and utility services.

Authorities sent more than 5,000 security men to patrol the streets of Dhaka.

Several protesters, including two former government ministers, received minor injuries as police used tear gas and batons.

The protesters were dispersed to enforce a ban on holding street rallies, police said.

A general strike is a common tactic used by political parties against the government. Such protest is usually confined to the cities. It does not affect the rural areas, where 80 percent of the country’s 130 million people live.

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