Radical Socialist condemns the crackdown and arrest of demonstrators protesting under the banner of “Peoples Movement Against Power Tariff Hike” in West Bengal. The demonstrators were on an indefinite hunger strike for two days starting 5 September in front of the State Electricity Board’s office, before the police’s brutal crackdown. We hold this action by the police as a violation of democratic right to protest.
The issues to be considered are very simple. Power supply in Kolkata is organized by the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation, a privately owned concern that has the responsibility for a major public service. The CESC as well as the state owned WBSEB have been allowed to increase power tariffs for all categories by the West Bengal Electricity Regulation Commission’s (WBERC) notice issued in March. The hike in the tariffs would be applicable from 2014-15 and the WBERC has asked the supply companies to collect the arrears from the consumers alongside the revised rates.
There have been repeated power tariff hikes over the years, under numerous pretexts, and these naturally hurt the more economically disadvantaged groups most.
What is even more significant is the increasing intolerance towards any dissent. Police was sent to break up a peaceful form of protest, where people were simply going on hunger strike to draw public attention to and mobilize opinion in favour of their demand for cancellation of tariff hikes. The government through this action has demonstrated categorically that it is not simply opposed to violence by the opposition, as it often fraudulently claims, but in reality, opposed to any viewpoint different from its own, especially viewpoints calling for public action and/or supporting toiling people. This is a move to despotism that has to be resisted.
· Oppose the use of police on expressions of dissent
· Reject government moves to use state power to support private capital
· Withdraw all cases against the accused
Radical Socialist, Kolkata 6.9.2015