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Street protests erupt across Bangladesh over fuel price hikes

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Unprecedented fuel price increases announced on August 5—the highest in Bangladeshi history—have triggered nationwide protests by workers, students and the poor against the Awami League-led government. The price of petrol was increased by nearly 52 percent per litre, from 86 taka ($US 91 cents) to 130 taka ($US1.37), with diesel and kerosene prices rising by 42.5 percent.

The price hikes, like those in many other countries, are a direct result of the US-NATO proxy war in Ukraine and the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as workers and the poor are already struggling to deal with declining living conditions.

Bangladeshi garment workers block a road demanding their unpaid wages during a protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, April 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Al-emrun Garjon)

According to media reports, protests erupted in Dhaka, the national capital, and other major cities, beginning the day after the price rises. Motorbike users and transport workers staged street demonstrations, chanting slogans against Prime Minister Sheik Hasina and demanding her government lower the prices.       

Mohammad Nurul Islam, a truck driver who transports vegetables, spoke to the BBC while queuing for petrol. “When I go to the market, I can’t buy enough food for my family. If the price of fuel keeps increasing like this, I won’t be able to look after my parents or send my children to school. If I lose my job, I might have to start begging in the street,” he said.

One protester, Homammed Shajahan, who hires vans for a living, told Al Jazeera: “No one is renting our vans now because it costs more. It is really hard on us. See all the drivers are sitting idle. We cannot understand what the government is doing,” he said.

The fuel price increases have driven up the cost of other essentials as well as bus and other transport fares.

The New Indian Express reported on August 13 spiralling prices for 25 out of 26 basic items. Over the past month, the cost of rice has risen by 22 percent, farm-grown chickens 45 percent, onions 43 percent, eggs 20 percent and fish by 10 percent.

Mamunur Rashid, an office janitor in Dhaka and with a family of six, told the newspaper that he was previously able to eat fish three times a week, but “now I only eat it once.”

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