Tripura: Traffic crippled as auto drivers protest CNG price hike in Agartala

Agartala: Traffic was brought to a grinding halt in Agartala city on Sunday as protests broke out in front of CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) refilling stations owing to an “abrupt” rise in the prices.

The protests were staged mainly by the auto-rickshaw drivers. The Tripura Natural Gas Corporation, the state-owned company that deals in the distribution of CNG, has been accused of hiking the prices significantly.  

The protesters said the TNGCL issued a notification on the night October 1 and increased the fuel prices by a little over Rs 9. A few months ago, the CNG had become expensive by Rs 8.

“The auto drivers of the city have been facing a range of issues. The protests that are being staged today are an outburst of long accumulated resentment against the state government,” said Ajit Das, an auto-rickshaw driver. 

He said, “All of us have paid hefty amounts as a fitness penalty. Several auto-rickshaw owners have received notices asking for payment of more than Rs 1 lakh. Apart from that, insurance premiums, maintenance and other related charges are also increasing. And if CNG prices also rise, we will be unable to feed our families.”

Amit Chakraborty, a graduate who ferries passengers in Agartala city to Airport road, said, “In 2017, per kg CNG price was somewhere near Rs 40 to 45. This has increased to Rs 70 now. Our expenses on CNG are close to getting doubled. The state government must pay attention on this.” 

Chakraborty also alleged that the transport department had charged more than Rs 4,000 as a meter installation fee. “Sad to say, these machines are not being used. The abolishment of permit route passenger ferrying has turned into lip service and we are all following the previous method,” he said.

The protests evoked prompt responses from the trade union leaders. A delegation of trade union leaders under the leadership of ruling BJP-backed Vivekananda Vichar Mancha (VVM) leader Biplab Kar met in a deputation with the authorities of Tripura Natural Gas Corporation. 

“A notification was issued by the TNGCL stating that CNG price per Kg has been raised by Rs 9. Sometime back, the prices were hiked by a little over Rs 8. During the festive season, the price hike is an added burden on the auto-drivers. After repeated efforts from our end, the transport department has agreed to reconsider the matter which has come as a sigh of relief for the auto-drivers. We have spoken to the authorities to repeal their order as early as possible. I strongly feel that the Tripura Natural Gas Corporation is alone responsible for the hike,” Kar alleged.

“The TNGCL could have organized a meeting under the stewardship of the Transport Minister and the rates could have been fixed after taking the views of all the stakeholders into consideration,” Kar said

Left-backed trade union CITU leader Tapan Das said, “This is nothing new. Give me one example where prices have reduced under the rule of the BJP. People are now protesting as their backs are against the wall.” 

The protests, however, ended late in the evening after authorities agreed to reconsider the price hike. 

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