Roll back fuel price increase: Sonia writes to PM Modi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. (HT)

Congress President Sonia Gandhi today wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which the Congress leader has raised concern over the rising price of petrol and diesel in the country.

The leader in the letter wrote that the price are at ‘historic and unsustainable’ high.

Sonia Gandhi wrote,” As GDP ‘nosedives’ and fuel prices rise unchecked, govt continues to blame previous regimes for its economic ‘mismanagement,” “Rollback fuel price increases and pass on benefit to our middle and salaried classes, farmers, poor,” she further added.

“I write to you to convey every citizen’s anguish and deep distress regarding the spiralling fuel and 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 runaway inflation and an unprecedented rise in price of almost all household items and essential commodities,” the Congress chief said.

“Sadly, in these distressing times, the government has chosen to profiteer off people’s misery and suffering,” Sonia 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. Therefore, your government’s act of raising prices (continuously for 12 days till February 20th) is little less than a brazen act of profiteering,” she said.

What is equally distressing is that despite being in power for almost seven years now, the government continues to blame previous regimes for its own economic mismanagement, she said in her letter to Modi.

To set the record straight, domestic crude oil production has fallen to an 18-year low in 2020, Gandhi said.

Governments are elected to ease the burden of people and at the very least, not work directly contrary to their interests, the Congress chief 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,” she said.

“I hope you will agree that it is time for your government to focus on solutions instead of looking for excuses. India deserves better,” Gandhi said.

“Your Government has increased excise duty on Diesel by 820 per cent and on petrol by 258 per cent over and collected upwards of 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,” she said in the letter to Prime Minister.

“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 and 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,” she said.

She said that the central government has been unreasonably over-zealous in levying excessive excise duty on petrol and diesel, i.e., 33 on every litre of petrol and 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,” she said.

Petrol price has already surged past the 100-mark in some places in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which levy the highest VAT on the fuel. On Saturday, petrol price touched an all-time high of 97 per litre in Mumbai while diesel rate crossed 88-mark.

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