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Government Profiteering

The Congress party demands immediate course correction in petrol and diesel prices

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While the Narendra Modi government has spelled out absurd reasons like ‘Hurricane Harvey and Irma’ for the increase in petrol and diesel prices, it has dealt a devastating blow to the savings of common people by brazenly increasing central excise duty eleven times in the past three and a half years - 133.47 per cent on petrol and 400.86 per cent on diesel. The Modi government has also robbed 18.11 crore LPG consumers by increasing the prices of subsidised LPG cylinders by Rs 75 in the past three years. The BJP government has not even spared the poorest of the poor – kerosene prices have recorded a double digit growth throughout this fiscal year.

Inflation has hit a five-month high with retail inflation rising to 3.36 per cent in August from a year earlier. With rise in fuel prices, it is natural that the cost of transportation and supply of food items increase, to adversely impact savings of common people. Food inflation was driven by rising price trends of onion at 88.46 per cent, vegetables at 44.91 per cent, fruits at 7.35 per cent and milk at 3.94 per cent.

As many as 18.11 crore customers purchase subsidised gas cylinders every month. In the last three years, the Modi government has hiked the price of subsidised gas cylinders by Rs 75 per cylinder (from Rs 412 per cylinder in May 2014 to Rs 487.18 per cylinder today).This is being done when the international prices of gas have gone down by 35 per cent in the last three years. As against this, the UPA-Congress government was paying a subsidy of Rs 449 per cylinder to provide relief to the common citizen. This is the true difference between the ideology and administrative style of the two parties.

In July, the price of kerosene rose by 31.2 per cent and in August it recorded a further inflation of two per cent. The rise in kerosene prices is a result of the fortnightly 25 paise increase in its selling prices. The government had allowed oil marketing companies to raise kerosene prices incrementally last year in a bid to phase out the subsidy on the fuel. This apathetic and insensitive decision by the BJP government is adversely affecting the last man in the queue – the poorest of the poor.

The Congress party demands immediate course correction in petrol and diesel prices by withdrawing the massive Central excise duties and other taxes which have burdened common people and only flooded the coffers of the BJP government. In July, this year – when the GST was passed, the Congress party had demanded that petroleum products, electricity and real estate be brought under GST. Bringing in petroleum products specifically under GST would reduce this dual taxation burden of Central excise duty and VAT (levied by the states) and would reduce the prices of the fuel. Capacity building and speeding up the process of cleaner and greener fuels should also be our priority.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Randeep S. Surjewala

The author is in-charge, Communication, All India Congress Committee

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