The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports yesterday extended its support to a half-day hartal called by several left-leaning political parties in the capital for Tuesday protesting the government's decision to increase gas price.
“Price hike of gas is totally illogical which has been proved during public hearings held by the BERC [Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission]. But the government has increased the gas price…,” Prof Anu Muhammad, member secretary of the committee, said. Speaking at a mass sit-in in front of Jatiya Press Club, Prof Anu termed the government master plan on power sector “erroneous” and “self contradictory”, and said they (the committee) would place an alternative master plan in this regard on March 18.
Meanwhile, BNP also extended its support to the six-hour hartal.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said this while talking to reporters in Thakurgaon.
“Some leftist parties have called hartal protesting the government decision (to increase gas price). We think we all should participate in this hartal. We are supporting the hartal...,” he also said.
Yesterday, the National Committee staged sit-ins across the country protesting the government move to construct the coal-based Rampal Power Plant near the Sundarbans, and the recent gas price hike.
The 1,320-megawatt coal-fired power project, which is being jointly implemented by Bangladesh and India some 14 kilometres off the Sundarbans, a world heritage site, has drawn widespread criticism and protests from different quarters at home and abroad.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) urged the government to relocate the plant to a “more suitable location” where it would not leave a negative impact on the world's largest mangrove forest.
The government, however, vowed to continue the project saying they would ensure all aspects so that the power plant does not harm the Sundarbans.
Several lakh people will become “environmental refugees” once the power plant is constructed, Prof Anu said, adding that the lives of some five crore people would be affected.
Yet the government is running advertisements terming the “destructive project” a “project for development", he added.
The government is carrying out attacks on the anti-Rampal movement with police and criminals, Prof Anu alleged, adding that all of their programmes had faced police obstruction in the last six months. He said they will continue their movement against the power plant and will hold rallies in coastal areas in the first week of April. The National Committee leaders Tipu Biswas, Bazlur Rashid Firoz, Moshrefa Mishu, among others, spoke.
Meanwhile, police in Chittagong obstructed a sit-in programme of the National Committee on the road in front of Chittagong Press Club.
Cops locked into a scuffle with the National Committee activists and tried to snatch their banner while they were assembling on the press club premises at 11:30am, the protesters said. The committee leaders claimed three activists -- Arifuzzaman, Shawkat Ali and Md Rabin -- were injured as police charged baton on them.
Denying the allegations, Officer-in-Charge (OC) Jasim Uddin of Kotwali Police Station, said, “They (committee activists) tried to hold the programme on the road obstructing the vehicular movement. We just moved them from the street.”
Similar programmes were held in Khulna, Narayanganj, Bogra and Gaibandha, report our correspondents.