Political Edge Bureau
February 21, Chandigarh
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the record-breaking prices of fuel being sold in the country and accused the government of profiting from people’s misery and suffering.
Congress chief’s letter comes a day after petrol price reached an all-time high of Rs 97 in Mumbai, while diesel was selling at Rs 88.06 in the country’s financial capital.
Petrol prices have already touched Rs 100 in two states of the country – Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
The fuel prices have been rising in the city for the last 12 days. Petrol was sold for Rs 96 per litre on Wednesday and diesel Rs 87 on Thursday.
In the letter Gandhi said,”What baffles most citizens, is that these prices have been increased despite moderate prices of International crude oil. To put it in context, the crude oil price is nearly half of what it was during the UPA Government’s tenure.”
The letter further states, “I write to you to convey every citizen’s anguish & deep distress regarding the spiralling fuel & gas prices. On one hand, India is witnessing systematic erosion of jobs, wages and household income. The middle class and those at the margins of our society are struggling. These challenges have been compounded by run away inflation and an unprecedented rise in price of almost all household items and essential commodities. Sadly, in these distressing times, the Government has chosen to profiteer off people’s misery & suffering.
Fuel prices are at an historic and unsustainable high. In fact, Petrol has breached the ₹100/litre mark in many parts of the country. The surging price of Diesel has added to the escalating woes of millions of farmers. What baffles most citizens, is that these prices have been increased despite moderate prices of International crude oil. To put it in context, the crude oil price is nearly half of what it was during the UPA Government’s tenure. Therefore, your Government’s act of raising prices (continuously for 12 days till February 20th) is little less than a brazen act of profiteering.
I fail to understand how any government can justify such thoughtless and insensitive measures directly at the cost of our people. Your Government has increased excise duty on Diesel by 820% & on Petrol by 258% over and collected upwards of Rs 21 lakh crore in the last six and a half years. This unaccounted-for windfall is yet to be passed to the people for whose benefit it was ostensibly collected.
As I had expressed earlier, it was cruel on the Government’s part to refuse to reduce fuel prices even when global crude oil had crashed to $20/barrel last year. The whole principle of deregulation & dynamic pricing is predicated on the principle that reductions in crude oil prices will proportionately benefit the end consumers. The fact that your Government fails to do so implies a deliberate and conscious decision to deny the common man his legitimate due.
Instead, ironically, your Government has been unreasonably over-zealous in levying excessive excise duty on Petrol and Diesel, i.e., Rs 33 on every litre of Petrol and Rs 32 on every litre of Diesel, which is higher than the base price of these fuels. This is nothing short of extortion to cover up economic mismanagement. As the principal party in opposition, I urge upon you to follow ‘Raj Dharma’ and reduce fuel prices by partially rolling back excise duty.
The astronomical rise in domestic non-subsidised LPG Gas cylinder to Rs 769 in Delhi (and over Rs 800 in many states like Uttar Pradesh) is even more cruel and has impacted every household. Can there be any justification for the Government increasing the price of a cylinder by Rs 175 in two and a half months since December 2020?
The truth is that as GDP nose dives, the prices of Gas, Diesel & Petrol continue to rise unchecked.
What is equally distressing is that despite being in power for almost 7-years now, your government continues to blame previous regimes for its own economic mismanagement. To set the record straight, domestic crude oil production has fallen to an 18-year low in the year 2020.
Governments are elected to ease the burden of our people and at the very least, not work directly contrary to their interests. I urge you to roll back these increases and pass on the benefit to our middle & salaried class, our farmers & poor and our fellow citizens. It is they who are battling an unprecedented economic slowdown, widespread unemployment, wage reductions & job losses, high prices and erosion of income.
I hope you will agree that it is time for your Government to focus on solutions instead of looking for excuses. India deserves better.
With good wishes,