Dhaka, (Jan 6) :— The opposition enforced countrywide shutdown protesting against the latest hike in fuel oil prices began on Sunday amidst tight security necessiated by incidents of explosions and vandalism yesterday evening.
The government on Thursday increased prices of octane, diesel, petrol and kerosene for the fifth time in four years, despite a threat by the opposition alliance to enforce a strike within a day of the hike.
Incidentally, the shutdown has come on a day when the ruling Awami League led coalition completes four years in office.
Police and Rapid Action Battalion personnel have been deployed at key points in Dhaka since early morning. Amid the tight security, pro-shutdown supporters reportedly torched a bus in Mirpur in the morning and challenged policemen at Tejgaon and Panthapath areas.
Reports of sudden processions in support of the strike have also come in from various areas in the capital.
Fire service’s control room official Forhad Hossain told bdnews24.com that a bus was torched around 6:30am in front of the Proshika Bhaban in Mirpur. Firemen rushed to the spot to douse the flames.
Around the same time pro-BNP Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal activists locked horns with the police in front of Tejgaon College during a procession in support of the shutdown. “During this time several handmade crude bombs were exploded,” Sub Inspector of Tejgaon Industrial Zone Police Mohammad Ramjan Ali said.
Police have detained two persons from the area after the explosions, he added.
Pitched battles took place between the police and strike supporters at Panthapath area around 7:30am. Police dispersed a sudden procession in the Gulshan’s Link Road area, Badda Police Station OC Mahabubur Rahman said.
Pro-shutdown activists also brought out a sudden procession in Basabo’s Kadamtala area and held a brief rally there. They tried to set fire to sacks to block the road. No police official was reportedly present there.
At least three crude bombs were exploded in the Dhaka University campus in the morning. Students caught an outsider and handed him over to police.
On Saturday, a day before the general strike, at least six vehicles were torched in capital Dhaka and five crude bombs exploded in the Dhaka University campus.
A large number of rickshaws and auto-rickshaws were seen dominating the usually busy streets but buses were less seen. Train services were not affected but no long-distance buses reportedly left the capital.
Like previous occasions, a large police posse took position outside the BNP central office in Naya Paltan where the pro-shutdown supporters were not seen active.
“This shutdown is for the sake of the people,” BNP’s Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told journalists.
He claimed people all over the country had come forward to support the general strike.
BNP chief Khaleda Zia held an emergency meeting of her party’s policymakers on Thursday night after the government hiked fuel oil prices. The following day, the party announced the countrywide strike on behalf of the 18-Party Alliance.
The government had raised the prices of petrol and octane by Tk 5, diesel and kerosene by Tk 7. The rates were put in effect from Thursday midnight. The government said it was hiking the prices to cut down the amount of subsidy.
The government of Sheikh Hasina had been under pressure from the International Monetary Fund for increasing the prices of power and fuel, two of the most heavily subsided sectors.
After the hike, diesel and kerosene are being sold at Tk 68 per litre, octane at Tk 99 and petrol at Tk 96. The government claimed it will have to provide a subsidy of Tk 11.77 a litre for diesel and Tk 12.15 for kerosene despite Thursday’s hike.
Economists and businessmen have predicted that increased petroleum prices will push up costs of agriculture and industrial production.