Union minister KJ Alphons on Saturday stirred a controversy after he justified increasing the prices of petrol and diesel by saying that those who own cars or motorbikes, can afford to pay for costlier fuel.

“It is an intentional decision made by the government,” Alphons said at a press conference. “We are going to tax people who can afford to pay. Who buys petrol? Somebody who has a car or bike is certainly not starving. Somebody who can afford to pay, has to pay.”

The minister of state for tourism said the government was imposing taxes for the betterment of the poor of the country. “We are here for welfare of the downtrodden, ensure electricity in every village, make houses, build toilets. It is going to cost enormous amount of money,” he said.

Former Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily described Alphons’ statement as “atrocious”. “This is how bureaucrats, who come to politics, have no understanding of people’s problems,” IANS quoted the Congress leader as saying. “Many of the ministers in Modi’s government are like this.”