The Congress on Thursday began a protest against the fuel price hike at Vijay Chowk in Delhi. The party launched the agitation hours after fuel prices were hiked again for the ninth time in the last 10 days.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge took part in the protests.
“We can see that petrol and diesel prices are climbing rapidly,” Gandhi said. “The government is making thousands of crores from this. The Congress is protesting across the country against this price rise of petrol and diesel. The government has to stop doing this. It has to ensure that prices do not rise.”
The Congress leaders shouted slogans and held placards saying “Roll back fuel price hike” and “Chunav khatm, loot chalu [With the elections over, the loot has begun]”.
The party has urged people to protest outside their homes and in public places by beating “drum-bells and other instruments” on Thursday. The Congress has also planned district-level protests against inflation between April 2 and April 4, and state-level demonstrations on April 7.
Rahul Gandhi, in a tweet on Thursday, also accused the saffron party of “looting India” and compared the cost of fuel with neighbouring countries. He noted that India has the highest rates, and Pakistan the lowest, where petrol costs Rs 62.38 per litre.
The party also launched a Twitter campaign on Thursday, called ‘Mehangai Mukt Bharat’ (price rise-free India). Party leaders and state units of the Congress put up posts against the rising fuel prices using the hashtag.
Since the revision in fuel prices began on March 22, petrol and diesel rates have increased by Rs 6.40 per litre, reported PTI. Fuel prices vary in states due to different value added tax and freight charges.
Now, a litre of petrol in Delhi costs Rs 101.81 and diesel Rs 93.07 after a price hike of 80 paise.
In Mumbai, petrol is priced at Rs 116.72 per litre and diesel Rs 100.94 after a hike of 84 paise each, reported the Hindustan Times. In Chennai, petrol costs Rs 107.45 and diesel Rs 97.52 following an increase in price of 76 paise each.
In Kolkata, the price of petrol climbed by 83 paise to Rs 111.35 pe litre and diesel rate rose by 80 paise to Rs 96.22.
While fuel prices in India are regulated by oil marketing companies, it has often been observed that the rates remain unchanged during elections and are hiked after the result day.
For 18 days in March and April last year, the prices of petrol and diesel remained unchanged as four states and a Union Territory went to polls. However, after the results were announced on May 2, the prices rose steadily to hit record levels.
Ahead of the recent Assembly polls in five states, fuel rates had been on a freeze since November 4. This was also the period in which the cost of crude oil had surged by nearly $30 per barrel. Oil firms had not revised fuel prices for 137 days despite the substantial increase in global oil prices.
On March 24, Moody’s Investors Services said that the three state-owned fuel retailers – Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd – incurred losses of around $2.25 billion (Rs 19,000 crore) in revenue for keeping petrol and diesel prices on hold during Assembly polls.
On March 8, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri had said that there was a “war-like situation” and that oil marketing companies would take that into account.
He had denied that oil price hikes had been stalled due to Assembly elections in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.
Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Nitin Gadkari too had attributed the hike in fuel prices to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.