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Panaji – Indians today are facing a forced inflation of a degree never before seen in India. At a time when the glaring mismanagement of the first and second covid wave has seen over 23 crore people slip below the poverty line, skyrocketing fuel prices are burning a hole in the already meagre savings of the common man. 2 crore people have lost their jobs in the month of April and May alone. The unemployment rate has now shot up to 8.1% after already being at a 45 year high even before the pandemic hit us, and 97% of the population is earning lower wages than they were prior to the pandemic. BJP Governments loot has pushed the people into sufferings charged AICC National Spokesperson Dr. Shama Mohamed at a press conference at Congress House in Panjim today.

GPCC president Girish Chodankar, Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat and Congress Media Department Chairman Amarnath Panjikar were present for the media briefing.

During these difficult times, the BJP govt is forcing the people of India to pay the world’s highest price for Petrol and Diesel. Petrol rates have crossed the 100-rupee mark in all 4 metro cities and in more than 200 cities of our country for the first time in history. Between 1 st January and 11 th July this year, petrol and diesel prices have been increased 65 times. There can be no justification for so many hikes charged All India Congress Committee National Spokesperson Dr. Shama Mohamed.

Today, Petrol is at Rs 99.13 a litre and Diesel at Rs 95 a litre in Goa, and Rs 101.19 a litre (Petrol) and Rs 89.72 a litre (Diesel) in Delhi. In 2014, when crude oil prices were around $105 a barrel, the UPA govt kept excise duty to only Rs 9.48 per litre on Petrol and Rs 3.46 per litre on Diesel, so that the people of India did not have to bear the brunt of high fuel prices. However, in the last 7 years, the excise duty on Petrol has been increased by 248% and on Diesel by 820%. In 2020 when the pandemic caused a historic drop in people’s incomes, the govt raised excise on Petrol to Rs 33 and on Diesel to Rs 32 per litre. Such exorbitant hikes has led to the govt mopping up more than Rs 25 Lakh crore in the last 7 years. It is extremely distressing that at a time when it is essential to offer incentives to Indians to boost consumption, the govt has not used a single rupee of this corpus to bring down fuel prices. The govt is quick to raise fuel prices when the price of crude oil rises, but never passes along a single price cut when global prices fall, which they should as Petrol has been deregulated since 2010.

High inflation has been burning a hole in the common man’s pocket. The price of Petrol and Diesel has a cascading effect on the price of other essentials. Retail inflation is at a 6 month high of 6.3%.

Wholesale inflation accelerated to a record high of 12.94 per cent in May 2021. There has been a massive spike in edible oil prices (30.84%) as well as an increase in fuel prices (11.58%). The price of pulses also rose by 9.39%. In April 2014, the price of LPG was Rs 414 per cylinder which is currently at around Rs 850 per cylinder. In last 7 years the price of LPG has been doubled by the govt. In the last 7 months, LPG prices have been hiked 6 times. The total increase is by Rs. 240.The govt’s desire to fill its coffers with taxes is taking money directly out of the pockets of Indians. In addition to fuel taxes, the govt has also continued levying multiple rates of GST as well as higher rates of GST of 12% and 18% on essential products such as toothpastes, toiletries and home appliances. This adds an unnecessary burden on the already overtaxed common man.

One argument presented by spokespersons of the govt to account for high excise duty on fuel is budgetary constraints on account of the pandemic. If that was the case, then it makes no fiscal sense to go ahead with the Rs 20,000 crore Central Vista project during this pandemic.

The other reason cited by the govt for high fuel taxes is repayment of UPA era oil bonds. This is a lie. Between 2005 and 2010, the UPA government issued oil bonds amounting to Rs 1.4 lakh crore only. The truth is that the burden due to oil bonds in last 6 years and 9 Months (April 1, 2014 to December 31, 2020) is 3.5% of total contribution of the petroleum sector to the central exchequer. In other words, in the last 6 years and 9 months, the govt of India had paid Rs 71,198 Crore, which is only 2.8% out of the total Rs. 25 Lakh Crore collected in fuel excise. Yet it continues to lie to the people of the country that UPA era oil bonds are responsible for high fuel prices.

The need of the hour is to put money in the hands of people in order to drive consumption and bring the derailed economy back on its feet. There is a need for Direct Cash Transfers to put money in the hands of the poor, while simultaneously controlling inflation by reducing fuel prices. The Congress party demands that the govt roll back the high fuel excise duty and reduce fuel prices to give immediate relief to the people of India.

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