The news of gas price hike caught Amanul Karim by surprise. It took him some time to grasp the details of the news report on the television on Thursday night.
Switching off the TV, he then told his wife about the government decision, and the couple discussed how to pay the extra bill with his limited income.
"We are now paying Tk 650 in gas bill for a double burner. But the pressure in gas supply remains low from morning till noon, making it very difficult for my wife to cook during that time,” said Amanul who works at a private firm in the capital's Agargaon area.
With a monthly income of around Tk 25,000, he is struggling to cope with the rising prices of essentials and other necessary items. He lives with his wife and six-year-old son in a rented two-room house at Agargaon.
The latest gas price hike came as a blow to him.
On Thursday, Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) raised gas prices for all consumers by 22.7 percent and decided to implement the increase in two phases.
Households using double burners will have to pay Tk 800 each from next month compared to Tk 650 now, while those using single burners will have to pay Tk 750 each against Tk 600. The prices would be increased again on June 1 by another Tk 150 for each gas stove.
Barely a day after the gas price hike, State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid yesterday hinted that the electricity price could also be increased soon.
“We want to adjust electricity prices, as costs of power generation from gas have gone up,” he told reporters after a programme at Bangladesh Shishu Academy.
"We will have to invest on infrastructure for ensuring uninterrupted supply of electricity in rural areas… We have already sent a proposal [on adjustment for electricity prices] to the BERC. Now it all depends on the BERC."
On the gas price hike, he said the government is giving a huge subsidy on gas.
Talking to this correspondent yesterday, Amanul said, “I am struggling to run my family. I have been trying to supplement my income, but I have not succeeded."
"The government is only thinking about its benefits from the price hike… What is more troubling is that the gas price would be increased further in June. Will we get uninterrupted gas supply even after paying the extra amount?" he said.
Some other city dwellers feared that the gas price hike would push up transport costs.
Murad Mia, a CNG-run auto-rickshaw driver at Farmgate, said they would be left with no other choice but to increase the fare, as they have to buy gas at a higher price.
PROTEST, HALF-DAY HARTAL
Several left-leaning political parties yesterday called a half-day hartal in the capital for Tuesday, protesting the gas price hike.
The parties include Communist Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal, Biplobi Workers Party, Gonotantrik Biplobi Party and Gonotantrik Bam Morcha.
CPB President Mujahidul Islam Selim told The Daily Star that the hartal would be enforced from 6:00am to 12:00pm in the capital. Demonstration and protest rallies would also be held across the country.
He mentioned that the vehicles carrying the Secondary School Certificate examinees would be outside the purview of the hartal.
In a statement, Workers Party of Bangladesh President Rashed Khan Menon and its General Secretary Fazle Hossain Badsha demanded scrapping of the government decision to increase gas prices.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal made a similar demand.
Meanwhile, at a press conference at its Nayapaltan office, the BNP protested the increase in gas prices, and demanded that the government cancel its decision.
At a rally in front of the Jatiya Press Club, leaders of leftist parties termed the hike undemocratic and a move against people's interest.
It is illogical to raise gas prices, as all gas distribution companies are making good profits, they said, adding that the government decision would adversely affect people's livelihood and push up transport and production costs in the agriculture and industrial sectors.
Saiful Haque, general secretary of Biplobi Workers Party, and Moshrefa Mishu, general secretary of Gonotantrik Biplobi Party, among others, spoke.