Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi on Sunday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to blame previous governments for rising prices but find a “solution” as she termed the fuel price hike a “brazen act of profiteering” and “extortion” to cover up economic mismanagement.
“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 wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister.
“What is equally distressing is that despite being in power for almost seven years now, your government continues to blame previous regimes for its own economic mismanagement. To set the record straight, domestic crude oil production has fallen to an 18-year low in the year 2020.
“I hope you will agree that it is time for your Government to focus on solutions instead of looking for excuses. India deserves better,” she said.
Stressing that the crude oil price is nearly half of what it was during the UPA government’s tenure, she said: “Therefore, your Government’s act of raising prices (continuously for 12 days till February 20) is little less than a brazen act of profiteering.”
Gandhi said that she is writing this letter to convey every citizen’s anguish and deep distress regarding the spiralling fuel and gas prices as 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,” she said.
Gandhi accused the government of choosing to “profiteer off people’s misery and suffering”. “Fuel prices are at an historic and unsustainable high. 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. What baffles most citizens, is that these prices have been increased despite moderate prices of International crude oil.”
The Congress chief said the government has increased excise duty on diesel by 820 per cent and on petrol by 258 per cent and collected upwards of Rs 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 noted.
“Instead, ironically, your Government has been unreasonably over-zealous in levying excessive excise duty on petrol and diesel, 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.
“The astronomical rise in domestic non-subsidised LPG Gas cylinder to Rs 769 in Delhi (and over Rs 800 in many states like Uttar Pradesh) is even more cruel and has impacted every household. Can there be any justification for the Government increasing the price of a cylinder by Rs 175 in two and a half months since December 2020?” she asked.