Oppn parties hold protests against surge in fuel prices
From bullock cart and camel rallies to leaders riding bicycles and promoting social media hastags, the Congress and other opposition parties held protests across India on Monday against the fuel price hikes in the last three months, saying it was hurting the poor and the middle-class adversely.
The government has claimed that the fuel prices have risen because of increase in international crude prices but the Congress has said that the Centre has artificially kept the prices high by not lowering the special excise duty imposed when the international crude prices fell to US $30 in March this year. Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, however, justified the increase saying that the money was needed for providing relief to the poor suffering because of the Covid pandemic.
In Bengaluru, former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah along with Congress leaders rode a bicycle from his residence to Minsk Square to protest against the hike. State Congress chief, DK Shivakumar, said: “In Delhi, diesel prices have exceeded petrol prices. We must protest against this.”
In Rajasthan, a camel cart rally under leadership of state Congress president Sachin Pilot was taken out. “Despite having full stock of fuel, the government has burdened the common people by increasing fuel prices continuously for last 20 days. Such a steep hike has not been seen in 70 years,” Pilot said.
In Haryana and Uttarakhand, Congress leaders took out bullock-cart rallies.
“Modi ji called himself janta ka chowkidar, but oil companies have been making profits and the PM has failed to provide any relief to the people,” said Kumari Selja, chief of Haryana Congress, asking what the Centre has done with ₹18 lakh crore earned by hiking the excise duty on fuel in the past six years.
In West Bengal, the Congress and Left parties on Monday held their first joint agitation against fuel price hike at Red Road in the heart of Kolkata. The ruling Trinamool Congress also held a separate protest rally.
“The country’s GDP has hit the bottom. It is the lowest in 11 years and unemployment is on the rise. Still, fuel prices have been increased,” said Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra.
In Maharashtra, Congress state chief and revenue minister, Balasaheb Thorat, public works and former chief minister Ashok Chavan, energy minister, Nitin Raut, participated in the protests.
In Uttar Pradesh, apart from the Congress, the other opposition parties, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, also demanded roll back in the fuel prices and had held protests. “Diesel has become costlier than petrol. What did not happen in 70 years, has now happened,” said SP chief Akhilesh Yadav. BSP chief Mawayati tweeted: “The (Central) government must control petrol and diesel prices. On one hand people are already distressed with Covid-19 and now this further price rise is staring in peoples’ face.”
In Ranga Reddy district of Telangana, the Congress leaders registered their protest by riding cycle rickshaws and in Warangal, they came in bullock carts. However, the bulls were disturbed apparently on seeing the crowd and ran helter-skelter, injuring some party workers.
BJP leaders termed the protest as a this as a drama
Maharashtra’s leader of opposition and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the decision to decontrol the prices of the fuel was taken during the United Progressive Alliance government. “If the Congress is so concerned about the price hike, the state government in which Congress is a parner should reduced the VAT,” he said.
Madhya Pradesh BJP vice-preisdent Vijesh Lunawat said the Central government is using the money to give a boost to the economic activities and meet aspirations of people. “If Congress is really concerned it should reduce VAT on diesel and petrol in Rajasthan to show the way,” he said.
(With inputs from state bureaus and agencies)