Sir — The United Progressive Alliance government has made the common man’s life more miserable by raising fuel prices (“Time to swallow petrol pill”, June 26). The increase in the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas will result in the costs of essential commodities spiralling further. The government should keep in mind that it had already raised petrol and diesel prices in February, at the time of the Union budget. It seems that the Manmohan Singh government cannot do much to lessen the misery of the aam aadmi. Its policies are pushing the people deeper into penury. The government’s decision to free fuel prices from State regulation is just an excuse to cover up for its failure to control the fiscal deficit. The government must reconsider the price hike.
Sir — Citizens of India have had to swallow the “petrol pill” more than once in the past one year. On this occasion, petrol became dearer by Rs 3.65 per litre, diesel by Rs 1.95 and cooking gas by Rs 36.40 per cylinder. Kerosene prices, too, have gone up after a gap of eight years by Rs 3 a litre in Calcutta.
This is a stringent measure that the UPA government has taken, forgetting its earlier promises that it would try its best to bring down prices of essential goods. Both the prime minister and the finance minister are knowledgeable enough to understand that permitting fuel prices to shoot up will result in an overall price rise. At a time when ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet, there are many alternative measures that could have been adopted by the government to cut costs. Instead, it chose to withdraw the subsidies on petroleum products and to let their prices be influenced by international rates. Our political leaders must understand that India is still not strong enough to compete in the international market. Moreover, a large portion of its population lives below the poverty line. The UPA government seems to have got into the habit of not keeping its promises.
Rimi Sengupta, Calcutta
Sir — The decision to free petrol prices from State control is an excellent one, and will go a long way towards ensuring social justice. The Soviet hangover, that had led to an administered pricing mechanism, is passé. In a market-driven economy, there are no free lunches. Apart from keeping India’s commitment to the Group of 20, which encourages the slashing of subsidies on auto fuels as part of a global effort for energy conservation, this step will reduce traffic congestion and pollution levels as well.
Subjecting petrol prices to market fluctuations will work wonders when it comes to plugging India’s fiscal deficit. The nation has no business to subsidize essential commodities for the rich.
Moreover, the leftist rhetoric of the move ‘hurting the poor’ is a red herring. It is alleged that people living below the poverty line are poor by choice. An earlier report by the West Bengal government cited that the rural poor’s alleged unwillingness to work hard was a major cause for the state’s poor performance in the national rural employment guarantee scheme. The extent of poverty may be lower than what is stated officially. This is because people seldom disclose their real incomes in surveys. The price of kerosene was stagnant for eight long years. The lifestyle of the poor underwent a sea change during this time. One should not assume that they will not be able to pay for kerosene at an increased price, especially when they can afford other commodities at the market price.
Finally, what made the Centre of Indian Trade Unions call a transport strike to protest the fuel-price hike? Citu is an organization of employees, not of owners. An increase in fuel prices is likely to adversely affect the owners of buses and other public transport vehicles by lowering their profit margins. But, in all probability, the owners will recover the costs with ease by compelling the inept government to raise fares.
Chameli Pal, Batanagar
Sir — A government advertisement sought to justify the fuel-price hike by saying that it is “a small price to pay today... for a better tomorrow”. It should be pointed out that the aam aadmi is not paying a “small price”. From now on, citizens will have to spend considerably more owing to the substantial rise in petrol products.
It is not fair to deregulate the prices of petroleum products as general market conditions in India are much poorer than conditions in the international market. If international prices affect the Indian market, the steep rise will be abnormal and unjust.
Sravana Ramachandran, Ooty