Congress ‘speaks up’ against fuel price hike

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on June 29, 2020

Youth Congress members during a protest demonstration against the increase in petrol and diesel prices outside the Petroleum Ministry in New Delhi on Monday   -  RV Moorthy

Opposition party leader Sonia Gandhi said the Narendra Modi government has earned ₹18 lakh-crore extra by increasing the duties on petrol in the last six years

Speaking up against fuel price hike, Congress leaders across the country demanded the Centre to bring down the duties on petrol and diesel and pass on the benefits of reduced international crude oil prices to domestic consumers. They said, in the last six years the Narendra Modi government has made ₹18,00,000 crore more by increasing the excise duty on oil products. In a nationwide protest campaign on Monday, the opposition party leaders charged that the Centre, in the last three months of lockdown, “looted ₹1,30,000 crore from the public by increasing the duties on oil”. The price of crude is ₹20 per litre, but the fuel prices are reaching ₹80 per litre, they said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi said people’s lives are caught between Covid-19 on one side and price rise on the other. She said the Centre increased prices of petrol and diesel 22 times in the last three years. “Narendra Modi government has earned ₹18 lakh-crore extra by increasing the duties on petrol in the last six years,” she said and added that the Centre is benefitting from the distress of the people. “This is insensitive. Farmers, workers and middle class will be affected badly by this step. I urge the Centre to revoke the increase in the excise duty at the earliest,” she added.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the Centre turned a blind eye towards the suggestions to give direct cash benefits to the lower strata of the society. “Instead of providing relief to people, the Centre wrote off taxes worth lakhs of crores of rupees of 15 multi-billionaires, who are friends of the ruling party,” Gandhi said.

Later at a press conference, the party reiterated the demand for bringing petroleum prices under the GST. Congress spokesperson Khushbu Sundar said it has been a long standing demand that the prices of oil products should be brought under the GST. She said the Centre is shying away from it for unknown reasons.

Sundar added that in 2014, when Modi assumed power, excise duty on petrol was ₹9.20 per litre and on diesel ₹ 3.46. “In the last six years, the Union government has increased the excise duty on petrol by an additional ₹23.78 per litre and on diesel by ₹28.37. This is a shocking 820 per cent hike in excise duty on diesel and 258 per cent in excise duty on petrol,” she said.

Meanwhile, officials from public sector oil companies said the steep rise in petrol and diesel prices is on the back of an increase in the international price of these commodities. But the reason for the even steeper increase in diesel prices after the Covid-19 lockdowns can be attributed to a higher demand with the transportation segment gaining momentum faster than personal mobility around the world, they reasoned.

Auto fuel prices in Delhi were hiked on Monday to ₹80.43 a litre for petrol and ₹80.53 a litre for diesel. This hike had followed a single-day of no price revisions on Sunday. Petrol price was hiked by five paisa and diesel by 13 paise in the national capital. Petrol and diesel prices have steadily increased across the country since June 7, when oil companies resumed the daily price revision mechanism after a hiatus of 83 days during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

“Internationally, there is a recovery of petrol and diesel prices. But it appears that there is more movement of commercial vehicles, like trucks, so the increase in demand for diesel is more than that for petrol. The domestic price of auto fuels in India is benchmarked to the international prices. This results in domestic prices going up or down, irrespective of whether the companies make the same gains or not,” a company official said.

Published on June 29, 2020

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