Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Sunday wrote a sharp-worded letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the skyrocketing fuel prices in the country, accusing his government of profiting off people’s suffering. Petrol and diesel prices across the country have been soaring for the past few weeks.
In her letter, Gandhi said she wished to convey every citizen’s anguish about the spiralling fuel prices. “Fuel prices are at an historic and unsustainable high,” she wrote. “In fact, petrol has breached the Rs 100/litre mark in many parts of the country. The surging price of diesel has added to the escalating woes of millions of farmers.”
“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 and suffering.”— Sonia Gandhi
The Congress president highlighted that fuel prices in India continued to rise, even though the price of international crude oil was moderate. “To put it in context, the crude oil price is nearly half of what it was during the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] Government’s tenure,” she added. “Therefore, your government’s act of raising prices (continuously for 12 days till February 20th) is little less than a brazen act of profiteering.”
Gandhi criticised the Centre for levying excessive excise duty on petrol and diesel. “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,” she said. “This is nothing short of extortion to cover up economic mismanagement.”
The Congress president urged the Centre to roll back the increase in fuel prices. “Governments are elected to ease the burden of our people and at the very least, not work directly contrary to their interests,” she said. “I urge you to roll back these increases and pass on the benefit to our middle and salaried class, our farmers and poor and our fellow citizens. It is they who are battling an unprecedented economic slowdown, widespread unemployment, wage reductions and job losses, high prices and erosion of income.”
Petrol price in some place has already crossed the Rs 100-mark. On Saturday, petrol in Delhi was priced at Rs 90.58 a litre, while diesel cost Rs 80.97. In Mumbai, petrol prices touched an all-time high of Rs 97 per litre, while diesel rate crossed the Rs 88-mark.
Opposition parties, including the Congress, have blamed the Modi government for the exorbitant fuel prices, by raising taxes to scoop out the benefit repeated from international oil rates plunging to a two-decade low in April and May. While global rates have rebounded with a pick up in demand, the government has not restored the taxes, which are at a record high.
As per an analysis by BloombergQuint, the key factor for costlier petrol and diesel are taxes that account for about 55% to 60% of what consumers pay at the petrol pump. In the last year, the two fuels have turned costlier by Rs 17.35 and Rs 15 a litre, respectively.
However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Wednesday blamed earlier governments for the skyrocketing fuel prices. He claimed that if the previous governments had focussed on reducing the country’s energy import dependence, the middle class would not have been this burdened today.