Protest in Odisha assembly against fuel price hike
Protests against soaring prices of petrol and diesel, which has touched its all time high in the state, were heard both inside Odisha Assembly and outside it on Tuesday as the opposition parties demanded reduction in tax by the Centre and state to ease the burden of the consumers.
They blamed both central and state governments for the situation.
NSUI activists staged a demonstration here blaming the BJP-led government at the Centre for the fuel price hike, while some Congress MLAs cycled to the Assembly as a mark of protest.
The party's lawmakers - Suresh Kumar Routray, Taraprasad Bahinipati and Adhiraj Panigrahi were seen riding bicycles on Lok Seva Marg on their way to the Assembly to attend the budget session.
The opposition party also moved a notice for discussion on the fuel price hike in the state which was debated for about 90 minutes.
Both the Central and Odisha governments are equally responsible for the fuel price hike. Both fail to feel the people's plights, Bahinipati, the Congress whip said.
Blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi for creating Bure Din (bad days) for the citizens instead of Acche Din (good days) promised by him, Congress MLAs demanded that both the governments reduce tax rates to provide relief to the people who are already struggling due to the situation due to the pandemic.
The agitating Congress members also pointed out that the fuel price hike has not only hit the traders, but also farmers, students, daily wage earners and other sections of the society.
Odisha Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari said the tax collected on fuel by the state government is utilised for the welfare of poor people.
He said GST had been imposed on all materials and services in the state barring crude oil, petrol, diesel, aviation fuel, natural gas and liquor.
The Centre is collecting ₹32.90 from a litre of fuel, while Odisha government is levying ₹21.40 as 32 per cent VAT on it, he said.
Pujari suggested that the Centre withdraw infrastructure cess and agricultural infrastructure development cess, ₹18 and ₹2.50 per litre respectively, to reduce fuel price.
Pujari said the price of 1 litre petrol in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday is ₹91.66. While ₹33.68 is the base price fixed by the oil marketing companies, the central excise duty is ₹1.40. The additional excise duty is ₹11.
Taking all these taxes into account, the central government charges ₹32.90 per litre while the states share is ₹21.40 towards 32 per cent VAT, Pujari clarified.
In Bhubaneswar the price of 1 litre of diesel on Tuesday is ₹88.63. The Centre takes ₹31.80 from this amount, while Odisha gets ₹ ₹18.90 as 28 per cent VAT, Pujari said.
The minister also informed the House that the price of petrol is ₹98.96 in Bhopal, ₹97.34 in Mumbai, ₹91.12 in Kolkata, ₹92.90 in Chennai, ₹94.54 in Hyderabad and Patna, ₹93.25 in Thiruvananthapuram and ₹97.47 in Visakhapatnam.
Congress lawmaker Suresh Kumar Routray said the Odisha government should reduce VAT on petroleum products like in West Bengal and Chhattishgarh.
Bahinipati raised questions on ruling BJDs silence on fuel price hike. When there was a raise of only 10 paise in the price of petrol, the BJD workers had hit the streets. This is not happening in Odisha now as BJD and BJP have joined hands to exploit the people.
Defending the central government, BJP deputy leader in Assembly B C Sethi said that the allegations made by Congress are "politically motivated".
He, however, echoed the Congress demand for reduction of VAT by the state government.
Sethi said as there is no one present from the ministry of petroleum and natural gas, there is no point in holding the discussion in the Assembly.
The BJP lawmaker rejected the Congress allegation that the people are annoyed with Modi and claimed that as per a recent survey about 91 per cent of them appreciate him.
BJP whip Mohan Majhi also defended the Centre and claimed that the funds raised from fuel price hike is being spent for welfare schemes. As many as 15.34 lakh poor people had been provided with free cooking gas in Odisha during the pandemic.
Let Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik set an example by reducing the fuel price, Majhi said.
Utkal Petroleum Dealers Association secretary Sanjay Lath said the fuel price hike in the state is the highest so far.
A report said that petrol price has touched a record high of ₹100.29 (premium) and ₹97.14 (normal petrol) per litre in Kalimela block of Malkangiri district.
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