Congress president Sonia Gandhi took on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government over the fuel price hike issue on Sunday, as the chorus against costlier petrol and diesel grew across the country. In a sharply worded letter, Gandhi expressed her “anguish & deep distress regarding the spiralling fuel & 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 run-away inflation and an unprecedented rise in prices of almost all household items and essential commodities,” Gandhi said in a letter to the PM.
For over 10 days, the prices of petrol and diesel have been increasing. In Mumbai, petrol is at an all-time high of ₹97 a litre, while diesel crossed the ₹88 mark. This is the second time Gandhi has launched a salvo against the government regarding the steep spike in fuel prices. On January 7, she slammed the government for trying to offset the losses incurred by it during the Covid-19 crisis. “Today, the crude oil price is $50.96 per barrel. That is barely ₹23.43 per litre. Still, diesel is priced at ₹74.38, while petrol costs ₹84.30,” Gandhi had said. “In the last 73 years, fuel has never been more expensive.”
Again on Sunday, Gandhi attacked the government for “profiteering off of people’s misery & suffering” by raising the price of fuel despite crude oil prices being lower than those during the UPA regime.
“Fuel prices are at an historic and unsustainable high. In fact, petrol has breached the ₹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. 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,” Gandhi said. She added that the government had increased excise duty on diesel by 820% and on petrol by 258%.
“Your 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,” she said.
“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,” Gandhi added.
The government has defended the price hike saying that the international market has reduced fuel production leading to the spike in rates.
“There are two main reasons behind the fuel price rise. International market has reduced fuel production and manufacturing countries are producing less fuel to gain more profit. This is making the consumer countries suffer,” petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan said.