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Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: As Congress gears up to observe 'Bharat Bandh' tomorrow over skyrocketing fuel prices, ruling-BJD and BJP in the State termed the call for all-India shutdown as a ‘political drama'.

A day before the country-wide bandh, the Odisha Congress today launched campaign vehicles to solicit support for the party’s protest. Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) chief Niranjan Patnaik flagged off an awareness campaign urging public and activists of the party to make the shutdown successful. Hundreds of party workers joined a mass bike rally to promote the bandh call.

The party will observe the shutdown from 6 am to 3 pm in a peaceful manner.

“During the bandh, workers are being asked not to disrupt emergency services like ambulance, medical services and milk vehicles. Students appearing examinations will also not be stopped,” Patnaik said.

Urging the state government to adjourn the Assembly till 3 pm, the party has also asked its legislators to remain absent from proceedings of the House. “The ruling party should support the bandh for general interests and stay away from the House proceedings. It should not just limit itself to symbolic protest against the fuel price hike,” Patnaik said.

The OPCC chief came down heavily against the Centre for failing to control the soaring fuel prices. He further said the country's poor are yet to get the benefits of several Central schemes like Ujjwala, but the Centre claims the schemes to be successful and is busy taking credit through advertisements.

Meanwhile, the BJP criticised the bandh call given by Congress saying that it as a 'politically-motivated' move.

"There is no reason why Congress is staging agitation as hike in fuel rates is due to the rise in crude oil prices and dip in Rupee value. Since it is not under the control of the Centre, the Congress-ruled states should toe the lines of other states and lower the fuel prices by giving subsidies," BJP leader Pratap Sarangi said.

Ruling-BJD said it will not support the bandh called by the Congress against fuel price rise on Monday. The party, however, said it is against the hike in fuel prices.

"We have been holding protests across the State since last three days to make people aware about the steep price rise of the petroleum products. However, we are not supporting the Bharat Bandh," said BJD leader Samir Das.

Prices of fuel continue to soar today as well. The rates of petrol and diesel witnessed another hike of 12 paise and 10 paise respectively. In Bhubaneswar, while a litre of petrol now costs Rs 79.41, rate of diesel is Rs 77.96.

After the fall in value of Indian rupee to its lowest against US dollar and rise in crude oil prices, rates of petrol and diesel have witnessed multiple hikes. There is an increase in petrol and diesel rates at Rs 3.42 and Rs 3.84 per litre since mid-August.

The unabated rise in fuel prices has evoked sharp reactions from the general public who are suffering due to the situation.

“We are feeling the pinch due to sharp rise in petrol prices. Therefore, the government should take some concrete action to bring the fuel rates under control,” Saroj Mohanty, a Bhubaneswar resident said.

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