Petro price hike: What the leaders say
Petrol will cost Rs 3.73 per litre more from Friday, while diesel prices have been increased by Rs 2 a litre.
Also, cooking gas cylinder will now cost Rs 35 more, while kerosene will be priced Rs 3 per litre more.
While common people are crying foul over the government measure, political leaders too are not too happy.
We bring here reactions of some prominent faces of Indian politics over the rising prices of petrol and diesel.
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A cruel blow, says Left
Terming the hike in petro product prices as 'a cruel blow' against people, four Left parties on Friday demanded its scrapping and lambasted the government for giving 'false arguments' to justify these measures.
"The decision of the United Progressive Alliance government to inflict a steep rise in the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas is a cruel blow against the people who are already suffering due to the runaway increase in the prices of food and essential commodities," the Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Forward Bloc said in a joint statement.
The Congress-led government, they said, had shown its 'callous and anti-people' character as the decision had come when food inflation rate was around 17 per cent and general inflation rate reached double digit.
"India has the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of consumer price inflation in the world."
The decision to deregulate the price of petrol and leave it to the market to determine was "going to prove disastrous for the economy and the country," the parties said.
Accusing the government of 'giving false arguments to justify these measures', they said the prices of petrol and diesel were increased by Rs three barely three months ago at the time of the Union Budget.
"International oil prices have not risen substantially in this period," they said and rued that the government has not rationalised the taxation structure on petroleum products which was adding to the price of petrol and diesel in a large way.
"It is a myth that such a step is being taken to protect the public sector companies from under-recoveries. The so-called under-recoveries are entirely based on notional prices calculated without any reference to the actual cost of production.
"In fact, the deregulation is only to help private companies who withdrew from the market because of the government price controls. Now they will be free to enter the market to make profits," the statement said.
By deregulating petrol prices, the government has 'opened the way for continuous increases in the prices of petrol. By increasing the price of diesel and kerosene, the farmers and the poorer sections are going to be badly hit. The LPG price hike increase will further burden the middle classes'.
Demanding immediate scrapping of the price increases, the Left parties asked all their units to jointly launch protests.
"It is a myth that the step taken is meant to protect the public sector units. These are notional price calculations for cash recoveries. It will give a free rein to the private oil companies to enter the market," said CPI-M leader Brinda Karat.
"Today it (price hike) is Rs 3, tomorrow it will be much higher. It is a shame that we have a government in Delhi which is totally callous in its attitude towards the people," she said.
CPI National Secretary D Raja said the United Progressive Alliance-II government has 'completely failed to control price rise and is going on heaping additional burden on the common people and increasing their suffering.'
Terming the move as 'unwanted and unjustified', he said the Left parties had during the Budget Session moved cut motions to seek roll back on duties on petroleum products, which were increasing their prices in a large measure.
Raja said the Left parties have convened a national convention on July 1 to chalk out protest plans against government policies.
Transport strike in Bengal on Saturday: The Centre of Indian Trade Unions has called a 24-hour transport strike in West Bengal on Saturday to protest against the Centre's decision to hike the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas.
"All transport, including goods and passenger vehicles, will go on strike state-wide tomorrow in protest against the Centre's decision to increase the prices of petroleum products," Citu state president Shyamal Chakraborty told reporters in Kolkata.
He said that trains will run and essential services will be kept outside the purview of the strike.
Chakraborty, a central committee member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, described Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's opposition to the price hike as a 'political bluff'.
"To bluff the people in the state, she has not attended the meeting of the empowered group of ministers, which took the decision. Whether she attended the meeting or not, she has an understanding with the government on the price hike," he alleged.
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Image: Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani.
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters
We're not supporting the move: Mamata
Making her 'unhappiness' very clear by not being present at the meeting of empowered group of ministers, who took a decision to hike the fuel prices, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Friday her party was not supporting the move and sought reconsideration of the same.
She, however, ruled out any strong action such as withdrawal of support to express her party's opposition, saying, "Government has our crucial support and it will remain.
"I am unhappy. I did not go the meeting to give my approval to the decision of hiking the price of liquefied petroleum gas, kerosene and diesel," Banerjee said.
She maintained distance from the government's decision to increase the prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and kerosene.
"I had met Finance Minister (Pranab Mukherjee) on Thursday to convey my view. Our party does not support the hike because kerosene, LPG and diesel are directly linked with the common people's kitchen. It also affects the farmers," a miffed Banerjee said.
Seeking a rollback, Banerjee said, "I will request the government to re-consider the decision to hike the diesel, LPG and kerosene prices because it will result in increase in prices of other commodities."
She ruled out any strong action to express her party's opposition to the government's decision.
"Our party has 19 members and the government has 271 members. We are not a very big party but we can raise our voice.
"We can give our views but they (Congress) are the major party. So they have to take a decision. I am not going to quarrel regarding this because it won't look nice...But in democracy, there are some system and in the system we will raise our voice," she said.
"Government has our crucial support and it will remain. But at the same time we are not happy about it (price hike)," she said.
Maintaining that the party was opposed to the increase in prices of petroleum products, Trinamool Chief Whip Sudip Bandyopadhyay said, "We have lodged our protest and we do not support it".
However, "in any alliance government, we can only express our views. In a parliamentary democratic system, we can only lodge our protest", he said.
The rise in petroleum prices would "cause immense difficulty to the common masses," Bandyopadhyay said.
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Image: Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee.
We condemn the petro price hike: BJP
Slamming the hike in prices of petrol and diesel, Bharatiya Janata Party said on Friday the government continues to increase the burden of the common man who is already bearing the brunt of high food inflation.
"BJP condemns UPA's efforts to burden aam admi with yet another dose of petrol and diesel price hike. The food inflation is hovering in the region of 17-20 per cent and people are feeling the real pinch of overall price rise," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
Government increased the price of petrol by Rs 4-5 per litre, of diesel by Rs 2, kerosene by Rs 3 and LPG by Rs 35 per cylinder. Javadekar said BJP will stage agitations across the country against this hike.
"Instead of providing relief to the common man, the government is bent upon taking the petroleum prices to new heights which clearly is an anti-people policy," Javadekar said.
He said this hike would have a cascading effect on prices of essential commodities. BJP claimed that the government's argument of increase in prices of petrol and diesel being due to hike in international prices was 'bogus'.
"With the present global prices, petrol and diesel would be available at Rs 25 per litre, if there are no taxes. Petrol and diesel are charged with 100 per cent taxes in India," he said.
Javadekar claimed that India was one of the high taxation regimes when it comes to diesel and petrol prices.
"BJP demands that consumer should not be asked to pay more either for subsidising the inefficiencies of the oil PSUs or jacking up profits of the private oil companies. We demand withdrawal of taxation hike and the proposed hike," he said.
The main opposition suggested that if the government wanted to reform the administrative price regime, it should improve the efficiency of the three oil Public Sector Units.
"There are no benchmarks for efficiency, there is no oversight. There is no competition as there is an entry ban on the private sector," Javadekar alleged.
He said the government should actually be thinking of issuing kerosene coupons to the poor instead of increasing its price.
BJP plans to submit a memorandum of 100 million signatures to President of India Pratibha Patil against price rise during the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament.
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Image: People protesting against price rise in New Delhi.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters