West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday asked the Union government to form a policy to control the rising fuel prices, reported The Indian Express.
“After their [election] wins in four states, fuel prices should have been reduced as a return gift,” she said, according to the newspaper. “But it was not. The price of cooking gas has gone through the roof as so have the prices of potatoes and onions. Where will the middle class go?”
After a hiatus of 137 days, fuel prices were hiked on March 22. Since the revision in fuel prices began, petrol and diesel rates have been increased by Rs 10 per litre.
Opposition leaders have alleged that fuel prices were not hiked earlier despite a substantial increase in global oil rates because elections were being held in Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur. The results for the Assembly polls were declared on March 10 and the Bharatiya Janata Party won in all states except Punjab.
The Centre, however, had dismissed the charges, attributing the hike to the conflict in Ukraine.
On Thursday, Banerjee also announced that fruits and vegetables will be sold at subsidised rates at government-run Sufal Bangla outlets to give respite to people amid the fuel price hike.
The prices of vegetables and fruits are at least Rs 10 to Rs 20 cheaper at these outlets than market rates, reported the Hindustan Times. The state government has now further slashed the prices by Rs 2 to Rs 5 per item.
“This is a festival month,” Banerjee said. “We have the Bengali New Year and Ramadan month is also going on. The prices of fruits are likely to shoot up.”
The chief minister also claimed that the Centre owes the state government Rs 90,000 crore in Goods and Services Tax arrears. Banerjee said that unless the Centre clears the dues, it would be difficult for the state government to disburse salaries to its employees.
“I don’t know whether the central government will be able to pay us its [GST] dues in the coming days,” she said at a meeting in the state secretariat. “It is sitting on our GST dues and earning taxes instead from the state. It is denying us what we deserve. Cess is being imposed on everything.”
Banerjee also urged the Centre to stop taking toll tax from vehicles used in agriculture services and to look into the increase in prices of medicines, reported India Today.