Police have clashed with activists protesting the latest gas price hike near the Secretariat in Dhaka yesterday.
Water cannons and tear gas canisters were used to disperse the campaigners marching towards the Secretariat to block the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources.
Several protesters and policemen have been injured during the clash.
Leftist parties, including Communist Party Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (Basad) organised a demonstration in front of the National Press Club in the morning.
During their speeches at the demonstration, Basad General Secretary Khalequzzaman and CPB General Secretary Syed Abu Zafar claimed that the government was irrationally increasing the gas price, and they demanded the withdrawal of the unreasonable price hike.
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Protesters standing firm against water cannon of police during their march protesting the govt decision to increase gas price. Photo: Mahmud Hossain Opu/DHAKA TRIBUNE[/caption]
The CPB and Basad called a month long protest campaign starting from March 15 and scheduled a day-long mass sit-in programme on April 15.
When the programme ended, the protesters started moving towards the Secretariat's south gate, where they had their confrontation with police.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Ganasanghati Andolon convenor Zonayed Saki said: “All of a sudden, police attacked our peaceful procession and wounded more than 50 people, which is completely unacceptable.”
“We strongly condemn such attack.”
Additional Deputy Commissioner of DMP (Ramna Division) Navid Kamal Shaibal, however, said police had merely tried to quell the protesters, and in retaliation, they started breaking the barricades and throwing brickbats at the law enforcers.
Several policemen were injured by the brickbats, ADC Navid added.
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On February 23, the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) raised gas prices for all types of consumers, which will come into effect in two phases.
This was the first gas tariff increase since 2009, though CNG prices had gone up twice since 2011 and retail power price increased six times over six years, with the last increment in March 2014.
In the first phase, to be effective from March 1, household consumers will have to pay Tk750 for single burners and Tk800 for double burners every month.
At present, the gas price is Tk600 for single burners and Tk650 for double burners.
The same consumers will have to pay Tk900 and Tk950 for single and double burners respectively from the second phase, which was scheduled to be effective from June 1 but has since been postponed by the High Court.
Similarly, motor vehicle owners using CNG will have to pay Tk38 per cubic metre from March 1 and Tk40 from the second phase.
Gas prices for other sectors, including for power plants and commercial ventures, were also raised.
In response to the gas price hike, on February 28, the same alliance had held a half-day hartal and police had launched a similar attack on them then as well.