Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday accused the central government of extorting the common people by raising fuel prices 22 times since the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
In her video message while participating in the ‘Speak Up Against Fuel Hike’ campaign as part of the party’s nationwide agitation against the continuous increase in petrol and diesel prices, she said it directly hurts the country’s farmers, the poor, the working class, the middle class and the small businesses.
Demanding an immediate rollback of the fuel rates, the Congress chief also accused the government of profiteering at the expense of the common people, saying its duty was to help them in times of crisis and not make profit out of their hard-earned money.
On the one hand, the Covid-19 pandemic was wreaking havoc and on the other, the rise in petrol and diesel prices was making life very difficult for the people, she added.
While Congress leaders such as KC Venugopal and Manicka Tagore were seen riding cycles to Parliament, Youth Congress Chief Srinivas BV pulled a bullock cart to protest the fuel hikes. The agitation will continue for a week.
Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and hundreds of Congress leaders and workers are also involved in the campaign on social media, urging the people to join the party in putting pressure on the government to reduce fuel prices.
“I, along with all Congressmen and others together, demand from the Modi government to immediately roll back the increase in prices of petrol and diesel raised during this crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic,” the Congress president said.
“I also urge them to roll back the rise in excise duty on petrol and diesel since March this year and give this benefit to the countrymen. This will be a big relief in this period of economic crisis, ”she added.
Sonia Gandhi said the hike on its own was living proof of taking the hard-earned incomes of the people and filling the government’s coffers.
“The government’s duty is to support the countrymen in difficult times and not take advantage of their plight and profiteer. It has set a new example of extortion from people through this unjustified increase in petrol and diesel prices. This is not only unjust but also insensitive, ”she added.
“The Modi government has made provisions for collecting lakhs of crores by raising excise duty on petrol and diesel in the last three months. All this is happening at a time when international crude oil prices are continuously falling. ”
Since 2014, Sonia Gandhi said instead of giving relief of the falling international crude oil prices to the people, the Modi government has raised the excise duty 12 times, which helped it collect additional revenue of nearly Rs 18 lakh crore.
In his video message, Rahul Gandhi asked the government to stop profiteering from the fuel hikes. “The affect of rise in diesel and petrol prices are two-fold. One is that you pay directly and the other indirectly due to rise in prices of consumer products, including essential items, ”he added.
On one hand the government had written off loans of big people and on the other it was trying to profit from fuel prices, putting extra burden on the poor and the farmer, the former Congress president said.
“The country is reeling under an economic tsunami due to the coronavirus pandemic and everyone, including the rich and the poor, had been affected. We had urged the government to implement NYAY (Nyuntam Aay Yojana) to help the poor, but it did not listen, ”he said.
Countering the charges, Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the money collected was used for welfare measures and not for personal benefits as had allegedly happened during the Congress rule.
“I once again reiterate to Madam Sonia Gandhi ji that Modi ji has transferred more than Rs 65,000 crore to 42 crore people in the last 3 months,” he said.
“Unlike Congress’ legacy of transferring money into the accounts of middlemen, ‘National Daamad’, ‘The Family’ and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Modi ji’s DBT is about putting money in the hands of the poor, farmers, migrant workforce and women,” alleged Pradhan.
He also endorsed BJP president JP Nadda’s remarks, asking the Congress to explain the hike in fuel taxes in party-ruled states.