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BYJM protest in Kolkata sees pitched battles on streets

Kolkata, Sep 11 : Police lobbed tear gas shells and used water canons to disperse a large number of BJP youth wing activists who threw stones and fought pitched battles with security personnel during a street protest on Wednesday against the "exorbitant electricity tariff" charged by city power utility CESC.

The police said six of its constable and officers were injured, including the officer-in-charge of Bowbazar police station who sustained an eye injury.

The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, on the other hand, alleged that 50 workers and leaders were injured as the police mercilelssly beat them up with batons. "Five of them are serious," the organisation said.

The protest rally started from state BJP headqurters on Muralidhar Sen Lane in Central Kolkata, with the BJYM activists pushing towards the CESC headquarters, about 1.5 km away.

The BJYM workers broke one of the three barricades set up by the police on Central Avenue and marched forward. A scuffle ensued with the police as the protesters tried to break the second barricade. Some of the agitators were seen hurling bricks at the security personnel, who retaliated with a baton charge.

There were pitched battles between the two sides, and a number of BJYM workers were seen bleeding.

The BJYM later alleged that 85 of the protestors were arrested by the police. Those arrested included BJP General Secretaries Sayantan Basu and Raju Bandopadhyay and BJYM state President Debjit Sarkar.

"The police rained batons. Many of our workers have head injuries. The situation in Bengal is very bad. There is no democracy in the state. If the police work like cadres of (Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee, the situation will turn worse.

"Fifty of the protestors have sustained injuries. We wanted a peaceful movement, but the administration did not allow," said Basu.

Bandopadhyay alleged that the ruling Trinamool Congress was being controlled by Sanjiv Goenka, the chairman of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group that owns CESC.

The Trinamool reacted strongly.

"A party which is run by the likes of (industrialist) Adani, sees others in the same light. They should behave democratically. People are not accepting such comments on their part," said state minister and Trinamool leader Tapas Roy.

The BJYM accused the CESC of looting the consumers by exploiting the monopoly it enjoys over power supply in the city and its adjoining areas.

"For every 100 units of electricity, the charges of CESC are the highest in the country. In many states the price of the first 100 units are absolutely free. But CESC buys power at Rs 4.26 and sells it at a price of Rs 7.33 (first 100 units). The same company while doing business in Tamil Nadu sells at Rs 4.90 per unit and in Rajasthan they sell at Rs six per unit," the BJYM said in a statement.

The BJYM demanded reduction in power tariff so that it is at par with other states and floating of global tender to bring competition in the market.

Contacted for a response, a CESC spokesperson told IANS "We have no comments to offer."

On the other hand, the state government in a statement said power tariff is decided by the Electricity Regulatory Commission. "The state government has no role in the matter."

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BYJM protest in Kolkata sees pitched battles on streets


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