By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: June 16, 2020 11:50:13 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. (File)
On the day fuel prices rose for the 10th consecutive day, Congress president Sonia Gandhi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rollback the hike, saying his government’s decision to increase prices on petrol and diesel during the coronavirus pandemic was “wholly insensitive”.
In her letter to the Prime Minister, Sonia said, “India has faced unprecedented public health, economic and social challenges during the ongoing battle against Covid-19. I am deeply distressed that in these exceedingly difficult times since the beginning of March, the government has taken the wholly insensitive decision to increase petrol and diesel prices on no less than ten separate occasions.”
“I see no logic in why the government would even consider such a price increase at a time when the economic impact of Covid-19 is depriving millions of jobs and livelihood, devastating business big and small, rapidly eroding the income of the middle class, even as farmers are struggling to sow the crop for the Kharif season,” she added.
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Sonia also alleged that the BJP government is trying to earn by imposing high taxes on fuel and putting people under greater hardship. “Your government is seeking to earn an additional revenue of nearly Rs. 2,60,000 crores by these ill-advised hikes in excise duty and increases in the petrol of diesel. As it is, people across the board are facing unimaginable hardships what to say of widespread fear and insecurity. These price increases are saddling our people with an additional burden of this enormous magnitude that is neither justified nor appropriate. It is the duty and responsibility of the government to alleviate suffering, not put the people to still greater hardship,” the letter read.
“Given that the international price of crude oil has fallen by approximate 9 per cent over the last week (coming after a collapse of crude oil prices over the last few months), the Government is doing nothing short of profiteering off its people – when they are down and out,” the Congress president wrote.
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Sonia further said that this is the time to deploy the resources the government has earned over the last six years through increasing the excise duty on petrol and diesel on twelve different occasions. “It is a matter of record that despite historically low oil prices over the last six years your government’s revenues have been massively enriched by the cumulative increase in excise duty on petrol and diesel on twelve different occasions (by an additional Rs 23.78 per litre on petrol and Rs 28.37 on diesel). This translates into a 258 per cent increase in excise on petrol and 820 per cent hike in excise duty on diesel yielding in these six years a staggering Rs. 18,00,000 crores from excise collection on petrol and diesel alone. If ever there was ever a time to deploy these resources in the service of the people, it is now.”
“I urge you to roll back these increases and pass on the benefit of low oil prices directly to the citizens of this country. If you wish for them to be ‘self-reliant’ then do not place financial fetters on their ability to move forward. And I am once again obliged to repeat what I have said before: please use the government’s resources to put money directly into the hands of those who need it in this time of severe hardship,” she added.
Sonia’s letter comes a day after former Congress president Rahul Gandhi criticised the government over the matter.
Petrol and disease prices were raised for the tenth day in a row on Tuesday, with petrol costing 47 paise more per litre and diesel by 57 paise in the national capital. In Delhi, petrol rose to Rs 76.73 a litre from Rs 76.26, while diesel climbed to Rs 75.19 per litre from Rs 74.62, data available with the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) showed. With the latest fuel price rise, petrol has now gone up by Rs 5.47 per litre and diesel by Rs 5.80 a litre in the national capital in the past 10 days. This is the highest levels in about 21 months, despite crude sill under $39 a barrel (Brent).
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