Congress president Sonia Gandhi (File photo)
NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday attacked the Narendra Modi–led BJP government for hiking fuel prices 22 times since the lockdown, and “extorting from people” when they were already facing steep economic losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Demanding an immediate rollback of the fuel price rise, Gandhi charged the government with profiteering at the expense of the people, saying its duty was to help them in times of crisis and not make profits out of their hard-earned money.
Participating in Congress' “#SpeakUpAgainstFuelHike” social media campaign launched on Monday morning, Gandhi referred to the fuel price hike as a double whammy for people already reeling under the loss of livelihoods due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi also said coronavirus had the worst impact on the farmers and poor in the country. “The government’s biggest wrongdoing is that it has increased the prices of petrol and diesel 22 times in the last few months….We recommended to the government that it should grant monthly transfers to the poor people in their bank accounts, and help MSMEs by granting them a package so they don’t slip into bankruptcy. But they didn’t. Instead, they inflicted a sharp price hike. SO we ask the government to roll back excise duty and to stop extorting from the people of India.”
Even as the Congress party enlisted support from common people, asking them to record stories of how their lives are impacted by the fuel price hike, senior party leaders, including organisation general secretary KC Venugopal, and MPs Rajeev Satav and Manick Tagore cycled from their residences to Parliament, Vijay Chowk and back, to protest against how the spiralling fuel prices were unviable.
Party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also joined the campaign on social media, and urged people to join them in pressing the government to reduce fuel prices.
“The government's duty is to support the countrymen in difficult times and not take advantage of their plight and profiteer.
“The government has set a new example of extortion from people through this unjustified increase in petrol and diesel prices. This is not only unjust but also insensitive,” Gandhi said, noting that it directly hurts the country's farmers, the poor, the working class, the middle class and the small businesses.
She said the price of petrol in national capital Delhi and other big cities has crossed Rs 80 per litre.
“After the March 25 lockdown, the Modi government, in the last three months, has raised the prices of petrol and diesel 22 times,” the Congress chief said, adding that the price of diesel has gone up by Rs 11 per litre and that of petrol by Rs 9.12 per litre.
“The Modi government has made provision for collecting lakhs of crores by raising excise duty on petrol and diesel in the last three months. All this is happening at a time when the international crude oil prices are continuously falling,” she said.
The Congress president said that since 2014, instead of giving relief of the falling international crude oil prices to the people, the Modi government has raised the excise duty 12 times, which helped it collect additional revenue of nearly Rs 18 lakh crore.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also put out a video as part of the campaign, alleging that the government has collected Rs 1.3 lakh crore through the fuel price hikes since the lockdown.