DMK and Allies stages State-wide stir against bus fare hike
The DMK, along with its allies, including the Congress, the MDMK, the CPI, the CPI (M), the VCK, the Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi, the All India Moovendar Munnetra Kazhagam and the Indian Union Muslim League, staged protests across Tamil Nadu on Saturday, demanding a rollback of the recent hike in bus fares implemented by the State government.
DMK working president M.K. Stalin demanded that Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami either roll back the steep increase in bus fares or resign from his post. “The Chief Minister said he hiked the bus fares with a heavy heart. If he has a sympathetic heart, he should roll back the hike,” Mr. Stalin said while leading a protest at Chepauk. Flanked by DMK leader J. Anbazhagan, CPI State secretary R. Mutharasan and other leaders from allied parties, Mr. Stalin said his party would launch a nation-wide protest from Monday, if the decision to hike the bus fares is not withdrawn by then.
Mr. Stalin said the fare hike had adversely affected the poor, daily-wage workers, small vendors, students and even patients visiting hospitals.
Senior party leaders participated in the protests at various places across the State.
Speaking at a protest outside the Chennai Collectorate, DMK leader K. Kanimozhi, who was accompanied by MDMK leader Vaiko, said, “Public transport is a service for the people. Even in developed countries like the United States of America, the government provides subsidy to public transport. But, in Tamil Nadu, they [the government] have increased bus fares by nearly 67 %.”
Former Minister and Katpadi MLA Durai Murugan led the protest in Vellore. Questioning the need for a fare hike, he said, “The buses are in bad shape. No new buses have been purchased. The salary of employees has not been increased. They have not done anything that has benefitted the transport employees and the public. So, why increase the fare?” MLAs A.P. Nandhakumar (Anaicut) and P. Karthikeyan (Vellore) took part in the protest.
In a protest organised at Tambaram in Chennai, Mr. Stalin’s son and actor Udhayanidhi Stalin took part. The party’s Kancheepuram district president and MLA T.M. Anbarasan, Tambaram and Pallavaram MLAs S.R. Raja and E. Karunanidhi and Congress district leader Ruby R. Manoharan were also present. In a protest organised at Alandur, MLAs Ma. Subramanian, S. Arvind Ramesh and Vagai Chandrasekaran and Rajya Sabha MP R.S. Bharathi took part.
Tension prevailed for some time in Kanniyakumari after Vishwa Hindu Parishad cadre marched towards the Vadaseri junction as part of a rally when DMK cadre were staging their protest. The DMK cadre staged a road roko and were later pacified. In Madurai, party functionaries led by G. Thalapathy travelled on a bullock cart to the protest venue to highlight how fares have become unaffordable.
In Salem, former Deputy Speaker V.P. Duraisamy said the Chief Minister and other Ministers had purchased a large number of private buses and the recent hike was mainly to earn more profits for themselves. Demonstrations were held in Erode and Namakkal districts.
In Coimbatore, a stretch was closed for traffic for about two hours as thousands of cadre staged a protest. Singanallur MLA N. Karthik warned that the cadre will block traffic across the district if the fare hike was not withdrawn by Monday. A similar protest was held in Tirupur, where the stir was presided over by DMK North District Secretary Selvaraj and MDMK leader Duraisamy. In the Nilgiris, the protest was led by the DMK’s Nilgiris District Secretary M.K. Mubarak.