Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 31:
The dawn-to dusk shut-down called by Bidyut Upabhokta Mahasangh and backed by all majoe opposition parties in Odisha against the hike in power tariff announced recently evoked a lukewarm response today.
Shops and business establishments were open and vehicular movement was normal in most places though some educational institutions shut down as a precaution. Life was generally unaffected during the 12-hour bandh.
The bandh remained peaceful with protesters staging demonstrations in different places, police said.
Supporters of the bandh picketed and held demonstrations near government offices, electricity offices in particular, throughout the state.
Peaceful picketing and demonstrations outside block offices, sub divisional and district headquarters, electricity offices were reported from across the state including Cuttack, Balasore and Brahmapur.
Police said over 50 persons were taken into preventive custody in Bhubaneswar while they were staging demonstrations in protest.
The bandh, which was supported by opposition political parties, including Congress, BJP, CPI-M and Samajwadi Party, had exempted essential services like ambulance, hospitals, fire brigade, water supply and milk supply from its purview.
Leaders of the Mahasangh demanded an immediate roll back of the hike and a CAG probe into the accounts of the distribution companies (discoms).
“To safeguard the interest of the poor and farmers, the recently announced hike in power tariff must be rolled back forthwith,” said Panchanan Kanungo, president of the Mahasangh.
“Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC) and the state government should explain why they decided to put the power tariff burden on the consumers instead of collecting huge power dues from the three power distribution companies – Southco, Nesco and Wesco – whose licences were revoked recently,” asked another leadr of the Mahasangh.
Alleging irregularities in power distribution companies, the leaders demanded thorough audit of distribution companies by the CAG.