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Bharat Bandh: Opposition to protest rising petrol, diesel prices today

The Congress and several opposition parties will observe a Bharat Bandh on Monday to protest rising fuel prices, after accusing the BJP-led government of not doing enough to bring down the prices.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2018 23:52 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Opposition,bharat bandh,petrol prices
A host of major opposition parties — the Left, SP, RJD, NCP, DMK — have supported the bandh over rising petrol prices and are expected to observe it in several states.(Bloomberg)

The Congress said on Sunday petrol and diesel should be brought under the ambit of Goods and Services Tax as it claimed the support of about 20 political parties for a nationwide protest on Monday against rising fuel prices.

Petrol was selling in Delhi on Sunday at a record price of Rs 80.50 per litre, while diesel rose 10 paise to Rs 72.61 per litre amid a surge in rates over the past month that has increased pressure on the government to find a solution for relief to consumers. The Congress had called a ‘Bharat Bandh’ on September 10 in protest, saying that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government had “profited from the fuel loot”.

“Congress party has called for a nationwide ‘Bharat Bandh’ against the continuous rise in petrol and diesel prices and the drop in rupee’s value against US dollar. The bandh will be violence-free. We request all the businessmen to support us in this,” Congress leader Ajay Maken said on Sunday.

“In last four years, excise duty has increased by 211.7% on petrol and 443 percent on diesel. In May 2014, excise duty on petrol was Rs 9.2, while now it is Rs 19.48. Similarly, on diesel excise duty was Rs 3.46 in May 2014, however, it is now Rs 15.33,” he added.

The Congress said bringing fuel under GST would lead to a drop of Rs 15-18 in prices.

Almost half of the retail selling price of petrol and diesel is made up of central and state taxes.

Prices have been increasing since mid-August, rising almost every day due to a drop in rupee and rise in crude oil rates. India is the third biggest importer of oil.

Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje announced a 4% reduction in value-added tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel on Sunday, which was set to reduce prices by Rs 2.5 per litre in the state. “(It) will provide much-needed relief to the people of the state...,” Raje said after the announcement.

The Congress has also protested the weakening of the rupee that, weighed down by trade concerns and rising crude prices, breached the 72 mark last week. “The value of rupee is below 72 now. Earlier when rupee value used to cross 60, then Prime Minister Modi used to say that rupee is in ICU. What will he say now?” Maken said on Sunday.

The government has blamed international factors for the hike in fuel price and said that one major reason for the rise in petrol and diesel prices is the depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Samajwadi Party (SP), among others, have extended support to the nationwide shutdown called by the Congress.

While the Aam Aadmi Party condemned the rising prices, it said the party would not join the protest called by the Congress. The Shiv Sena, too, has decided to stay away from the agitation.

Responding to the Congress’s request to join the protest, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said: “The opposition should show their unity. The Sena is looking at the bandh neutrally,” he said. The remarks came after the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena announced it was supporting the bandh.

(With inputs from PTI)

First Published: Sep 09, 2018 20:34 IST