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Petro Shock: Anatomy of Petroleum Prices

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Petrol Price

Modi Govt may have been blaming the rising international crude prices for the current rise in the prices of Petrol and Diesel but anyone who is familiar with how prices move up and down in the international market would say that the government has only to blame itself because it failed to see the looming crisis while reaping rich dividends on account low crude prices.

Undoubtedly, the current surge in the prices of petrol and Diesel is on account of falling rupee against the US dollar and also the rising international crude prices but at the same time it is important to ask why the government failed to take any corrective measures in order to insulate the consumers from this unexpected fluctuations of weak Indian rupee.

It’s time to ask our Prime Minister as why he let his government rest smugly and claim efficient fiscal management while knowing all along that it was a result of cheaper oil prices worldwide? Why his government raise excise duties on petroleum products 12 times in last over 4 years and why it was kept out of the goods and services tax (GST)? After Modi became Prime Minister in May 2014, the excise duty on petrol has gone up by 211.7 % and on diesel by a staggering 443.06 %.

In 2014, the excise duty on Petrol for each litre was 9.20 Rs which increased to the present 19.48 Rs. Similarly, the excised duty on Diesel was 3.46 Rs in 2014 but after 4 years it climbed to a massive 15.33 Rs. If today, Modi Govt decides to bring the excise duty at par with 2014 level, the average drop in the prices of Petrol will be 10.42 Rs and 12 Rs for every litre of Diesel.

According to an estimate, the central Govt has collected a whopping Rs 11 lakh crore in tax from Petrol and Diesel in last 4 years between 2014-15 and 2018-19.BJP Govt came at the centre when the international crude was at all time low and Modi Govt not only took the advantage of the soft oil prices but on contrary it adopted a predatory policy on oil prices.

We are hearing various arguments from the leaders of ruling party as why suddenly the prices of petroleum products are touching the roof. Perhaps, the weirdest explanation came from a union minister who said that fuel prices in India are rising because of the high international crude prices .This is farthest from the truth and Prime Minister Modi is brazenly trying to fool people on this sensitive issue of petrol and diesel prices.

Let us have the reality check about the international crude prices. Since BJP came to power in 2014, the price of crude oil in the Indian basket fell from $109.05 per barrel in June 2014 to $46.56 per barrel in June 2017, a fall of almost 57%. Subsequently, it again it rose to $73.83 per barrel in June 2018.

This data comes from Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell (PPAC) which falls under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. Therefore, the prices have, as a matter of fact, dropped by about 32% since Modi government came to power. India still imports her 80% requirement of petroleum products through imports.

But there is more than meets the eye. The lies of spin-masters of Modi government is further exposed by the fact that international crude oil prices have little to do with what an average consumer pays for it. The prohibitively high taxes on Petrol and Diesel are the real villains which are something, government should control but strangely it has kept silence on these vital issues.

On contrary, it is hell bent on proving that all this will be ultimately beneficial to the people because Govt will have more fund at her disposal to pay for the welfare programmes. This could have been true, had the government have been spending the money for the benefit of the people.

But, if we see the track record of this government, we find that there have been cutbacks in almost all central welfare schemes over the years in the last 52 months with paucity of resources given as the main excuse. So, the argument of passing the benefit to people falls flat since the centre doesn’t seem to be redirecting the windfall from oil taxes to any public good.

Almost 46% of the retail price of petrol is made up of taxes charged by the Central as well as the state governments. If we look at the figures, in 2014-15, Modi government was making apprx Rs.1,22,200 crore from taxes that it levied on oil which by 2017-18, increased to more than double at Rs. 2,80,000 crore, a gigantic increase of 129%.

BJP Govt also seems to be passing the buck to the state Govt by saying that it is state governments who are actually responsible for the spiraling of oil prices. As far as state taxes are concerned, it has seen a 32% increase during the past four years. But if we calculate the total taxes collected by states, the figure comes out to be Rs.1, 86,000 crore on fuel which is nowhere near the princely amount of Rs.2, 80,000 crore, which is going to centre’s kitty.

Moreover, BJP is either on its own or in coalition with other parties is ruling government in 21 states; hence the onus to lower the exorbitantly high taxes is more on them than the opposition ruled states. Only yesterday, has Rajasthan, one of the BJP ruled state government has reduced the tax, but that is more because of political compulsion than anything else as the state is likely to have the Assembly elections in a few months.

While the common man is reeling under the pressure of high Petrol and Diesel prices, the corporate houses appears to have no such issues as the government seems to be more than generous with them. The big business houses, despite having a poor credit score have been indiscriminately given loans which they are now refusing to return.

It’s a strange coincidence that such bad loans given from public money collected through taxes have reached over Rs.11 lakh crore, the same amount which Modi Govt collected through tax on petroleum products in last 4 years. It raises a pertinent question-are the consumers of Petrol and Diesel in India paying for the profligacy of delinquent corporate houses.

If we see the pricing pattern of petroleum products like Petrol, Diesel and LPG, it appears as if the government has resorted to extortion towards the common people of this country in order to satisfy the greedy appetites of business houses. The government needs to understand the basic fact that these petroleum products are used not just by the rich or middle class people but also used for the irrigation purposes by the farmers, for transporting the essential commodities across the country and is directly connected to the prices of everyday products. These abnormally high prices of Petrol selling at almost Rs 90 for a litre and Diesel at Rs 77 per litre rob the people of their hard-earned money and no amount of lies by this government will assuage the anger of common man who is forced to undergo through this daylight robbery.

Disclaimer: These views are solely of the author.

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Shaheen Baghs spring up in UP districts

Initially, the protests began with Muslim women but now Sikh men and women have joined in a big way. Hindu women are not only participating in the dharna but are also arranging for food and blankets for the other protestors.

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Shaheen Bagh

Lucknow, Jan 23 : It began with the Clock Tower in Lucknow and has now found an echo in Prayagraj, Varanasi, Etawah and Rampur.

The sit-in protests against the citizenship laws which began in Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, have caught on in a big way in Uttar Pradesh.

Last Friday, a group of about 15 women arrived at the Clock Tower with placards against CAA and NRC, hidden under their burqas, and began the protest. As soon as they took out the placards, traffic on the main road slowed down and within three hours, more than a hundred women had collected at the site.

The police took away their blankets and food packets, doused bonfires with water in a bid to deter their efforts. However, the women did not budge.

The number has been swelling with each passing day and the seven-day-old dharna shows no signs of ending.

After Clock Tower in Lucknow, it was the Mansoor Ali Khan Park in Prayagraj where women started a sit-in protest

What initially seemed to be a one-day protest has been continuing for five days now. More than 5,000 women, men and children are camping at the park, braving the freezing temperatures.

“Yes we have been inspired by Shaheen Bagh. If our sisters can protest there, we can do it here too,” said Renu Varma, a mother of three. Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh entered Day 39 on Thursday.

At the Mansoor Ali Khan Park, women can be seen listening to speeches made by student organizations from the Left and the Samajwadi Party while others are recording the events on their cell phones.

“I just want to say that we will be here for as long as required, till someone from the government speaks to us,” said Fatima, an octogenarian who has joined the protest.

The Jama Masjid in Rampur has also turned into a protest site with women assembling in large numbers.

In Etawah, on Wednesday, the cop chased and caned women who had started collecting in the Pachraha area to start a sit-in against the citizenship laws.

“The police did not let us protest yesterday but we will be planning and will do it again. Let us see how long they shoo us away,” said Arushi Yadav who is now painting anti-CAA posters.

Varanasi, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, faced fresh trouble on Thursday when scores of women tried to stage a protest at the Benia Bagh ground.

As soon as they spread a ‘durrie’ on the ground, the cops arrived on the scene and tried to dissuade the women from staging dharna. The women were unrelenting and as soon as the police tried to arrest the protesters, a mob standing close by started pelting stones at the cops.

Additional forces have been deployed in the area to prevent the protestors from returning.

The protests against the citizenship laws are now spreading to the rural areas as well. Ujariyagaon, a village on the outskirts of Lucknow, is also witnessing a protest, albeit smaller in size.

What is common in all these protest is that the women are inspired by the Shaheen Bagh protest.

Initially, the protests began with Muslim women but now Sikh men and women have joined in a big way. Hindu women are not only participating in the dharna but are also arranging for food and blankets for the other protestors.

At the Clock Tower, Sikh men have even set up a community kitchen for women and children.

While majority of the protesters may not understand the provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), they insist that it will ruin the future of their children.

“If women are protesting in 32 cities, braving the freezing temperatures, there has to be a reason. Even if you want to believe that we are illiterate and are being misled, how do you explain that educated children form universities, IITs and IIMs are also staging protests?” asked Roshanara, a protester at Clock Tower in Lucknow, who has had much of a formal education.

The women are all the more determined to continue their protest after the ruling BJP alleged that they were being paid money to protest.

“Fine, we are being paid — so let us make some good money and continue with our protest. If these leaders also want money, they can send their women to protest with us,” said Ruchi Sahni, a young protestor at Clock Tower.

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Festivities at Rajasthan’s Cattle Fair

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Pushkar Camel Fair

Dotted with majestic forts and palaces, deserts and colourful people, Rajasthan is famous for a great many fascinating and interesting festivals. Each festival has its own significance and legends – tales that can keep you entertained forever!

Coming up at the end of this month is Rajasthan’s 2nd largest Cattle Fair at Nagaur. Celebrated with great enthusiasm and full of exciting events, the Fair attracts tourists from all over the world. Visitors have often said that the festivals of Rajasthan are so full of cultural beauty, colour and vigour, that given the chance, they would love to return every year.

The Nagaur Cattle Fair is an annual festival celebrates the coming together of animals including horses, cows, bullocks, oxen and camels, adding up to more than two and half lakhs! Held in the historic town of Nagaur located between Bikaner and Jodhpur, every year traders and buyers, collect here to trade more than 75,000 camels, horses and bullocks. The Festival is spread over 4 days and offers a vast number of events to keep everyone entertained.

In the mornings there are bullock races, cock fights, tug of war, while the evening offers visitors enjoy vibrant folk music and dance performances. Meals seated around bonfires with groups of folk singers and dancers are among the most unforgettable experiences that everyone takes home. There are many competitors for contests. Among the most sought after competitions are for turban tying, for the longest and best mustache, gymnastic stunts, jugglers, puppet shows and storytelling.

The Nagaur Cattle Fair is also known as the Ramdeoji Cattle Fair, started 56 years ago when Maharaja Umed Singh invited Sufi saint Shri Ramdeoji to Nagaur to demonstrate his powers. People from around the town gathered at Nagaur to watch him and it is said that they were convinced about his supreme powers and insisted that he should stay in Nagaur. A Fort was built with massive walls around the existing dwellings and named – the Fort of the Hooded Cobra. Thereafter it became customary for them to visit him once a year, to pay their respects. Till today the day of the Fair coincides with the day Ramdeoji was born.

This year the Fair is scheduled from January 30th till February 2nd, 2020. However, the fair can last even for 10 days. Visitors can expect the fair to open with sellers showing off their cattle. Each dealer is given a shed of his own and buyers walk around looking for the best buy. There will be stalls selling the vast variety of artifacts made in Rajasthan. Games and competitions of all kinds can be expected.

By sunset most of the buyers would have left the fairground and the sellers stay on to guard their animals. The cultural programmes begin after sunset and music fills the air. Among the main attractions at the Fair is the Mirchi Bazaar, This is considered to be the largest chilli market of Asia. Contest for looks as well as attire among the animals, is the most popularly photographed activity. The handicraft exhibition is spread in stores around the fairground. Among the most popular items are camel leather accessories, wooden items, crafts made of iron and others.

Visitors are welcome to stay back and enjoy themselves after the fair closes which is when the locals gather together to dance and sing. There are games to play and the stores are kept open for selling. It is also the right time to taste the local cuisine at the shops, including the rather rare camel milk delicacies! The finale every night is a spectacular burst of fireworks!

(Shona Adhikari is a lifestyle and travel columnist)

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Cancer’s Big Five

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cancer types poster

Cancer is one of the most dreaded ailments, and from amongst the very many types of cancer, there are a few that Indian women are predisposed to.

47.2 percent of cancer in women is accounted for amongst the five types. The surprising fact is that these cancers can be prevented by early screening. Early detection and treatment reduces not only the death rate but the quality of life post cancer treatment. Dr Neena Singh, Associate Director, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Fortis La Femme, Delhi sheds some light on this.

She reveals the following are the top five types of cancer in women in India:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Uterine Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Colorectal cancer

BREAST CANCER :

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in India and accounts for 27 percent of all cases of cancer in women. It is more common in urban areas than rural areas.

High risk factors:

  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Long period of OCP (Oral contraceptive pills)

Screening test for breast cancer:

Self-examination of the breasts. If any abnormality found like lump, pain or change in shape, consult a doctor who would examine clinically if it is cancer.

  • Mammography is done which can detect small lesions.
  • MRI Breast is done for staging the disease.
  • Treatment at early stages carries good prognosis.

CERVICAL CANCER

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in India in women accounting 22.86 percent of all cancer cases in women. It is more common in rural women than urban women.

Risk Factors:

  • Young age at first intercourse (less than 16 years)
  • Multiple Sexual partners
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Human papillomavirus infection (HPV)
  • Immunosuppression

Screening test for cervical cancer:

Any abnormal symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge and contact bleeding (bleeding after intercourse) report to a gynecologist who would do a clinical examination and do some test on cervix.

  • Visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA)
  • Visual inspection with legal Iodine (VILI)
  • Magnified VI! Under colposcopy
  • Exfoliative cytology (Pap smear)-is gold standard for screening.
  • HPV-DNA testing

Do Cervical biopsy for confirmation. Early detection and treatment have very good prognosis.

Prevention by prophylactic vaccinations in childhood.

UTERINE CANCER (CANCER OF UTERUS)

Uterine cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the uterus in its lining called the endometrium. Hence also named as endometrial carcinoma.

Risk Factors:

It is an estrogen dependent cancer. Persistent unopposed stimulation of endometrium with estrogen is the single most important factor for development of cancer endometrium:

Polycystic ovaries

  • Granulosa cell tumor of the ovary which secret estrogen
  • Hormone replacement therapy-unopposed estrogen therapy
  • Early onset of periods & late menopause (after the age of 50)
  • Age: – 75 percent women are post-menopausal

Nulliparity

  • Obesity, Hypertension & Diabetes (corpus cancer syndrome)
  • Tamoxifen therapy given in breast cancer
  • Endometrial hyperplasia especially atypical
  • Following radiation exposure to the pelvis
  • Family history of cancer uterus breast, ovary & colon

Screening test for uterine cancer:

If any irregularity in menstrual cycle, post-menopausal bleeding, contact bleeding and unhealthy vaginal discharge report to a gynecologist who would do

  • Clinical examination
  • Transvaginal sonography (TVS) to know endometrial thickness or irregularity.
  • MRI pelvis can be done for more details
  • Fractional curettage of uterus for histopathology examination or Hysteroscopy & directed biopsy from suspicious area. Early diagnosis & treatment has very good prognosis.

OVARIAN CANCER

Ovarian cancer constitutes 15-20 percent of all genital cancers. 85-90 percent of all cancers are epithelial in origin. Germ cell constitutes 5-7 percent.

Risk Factors:

Unfortunately, ovarian cancer doesn’t produce any specific symptoms. By the time symptoms appear its already in advanced stages. However, if patients have pain in the abdomen, back ache, indigestion, bloating not responding to basic treatment and lasts for more than two weeks then consult a gynecologist.

Screening test for uterine cancer:

No specific screening method is available. Doctor would do a pelvic examination to feel for ovarian mass.

  • Transvaginal sonography (TVS) to confirm ovarian mass solid or cystic.
  • Blood test like CA125 which is found raised in ovarian cancer.
  • CT Scan /MRI to know spread of cancer

Treatment:

Early diagnosis and treatment carry good prognosis.

COLORECTAL Cancer

When a cancerous growth originates in the colon and then spreads to the rectum, it leads to colorectal cancer. The risk of colorectal cancer is higher after the age of fifty years.

Risk Factors:

  • Smoking
  • Fat rich diet
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Colitis
  • Family history of colorectal cancer or polyp
  • Non residual diet
  • Chronic constipation

Screening test for Colon Cancer:

  • Frank blood in stools
  • Fecal occult blood test is positive
  • Double contrast barium enema (DCBE)
  • CT Scan
  • Colonoscopy
  • Stool DNA test
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