Sonia asks PM to stop oil price extortion
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing his “cruel” government of “profiteering” off people’s “miseries and sufferings” at a time when the poor and the middle class are grappling with unemployment and loss of income.
As petrol prices crossed Rs 100 for the first time since Independence although the crude oil rate is unusually low in the international market, Sonia described the steep increase in the country as “extortion” to make up for the government’s gross economic mismanagement.
In a letter to Modi, Sonia said: “I write to you to convey every citizen’s anguish and deep distress regarding the spiralling fuel & gas prices. 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. Sadly, in these distressing times, the government has chosen to profiteer off people’s misery and suffering.”
Questioning the government’s claim that it didn’t have control over the prices of petroleum products after deregulation, the Congress president said: “It was cruel on the government’s part to refuse to reduce fuel prices even when global crude oil had crashed to $20 per 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.”
Sonia pointed out that “ironically” the Modi government had been “unreasonably over-zealous” in levying excessive excise duty on petrol and diesel. She said the duty was Rs 33 on every litre of petrol and Rs 32 on a 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 you to follow ‘Raj Dharma’ and reduce fuel prices by partially rolling back excise duty,” she wrote.
She said: “Governments are elected to ease the burden of our people and at the very least, not work directly contrary to their interests. 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.”
Sonia urged the Prime Minister to focus on solutions instead of looking for excuses, saying: “India deserves better.” “I fail to understand how any government can justify such thoughtless and insensitive measures directly at the cost of our people. Your 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 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,” she said.