Fuel price hike decision amid COVID-19 crisis 'wholly insensitive': Sonia Gandhi

Congress leader Sonia Gandhi said that she saw no logic in such an increase at a time when the economic impact of COVID-19 is depriving millions of jobs and livelihood.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to roll back the fuel price hike, saying that the government's decision to increase petrol and diesel prices during the COVID-19 crisis was "wholly insensitive".

“India has faced unprecedented public health, economic and social challenges during the ongoing battle against Covid-19. I am deeply distressed that in these exceedingly difficult times since the beginning of March, the government has taken the wholly insensitive decision to increase petrol and diesel prices on no less than ten separate occasions,” the Congress president wrote in her letter to the prime minister on Tuesday.

Sonia Gandhi said that she saw no logic in such an increase at a time when the economic impact of COVID-19 is depriving millions of jobs and livelihood.

“I see no logic in why the government would even consider such a price increase at a time when the economic impact of Covid-19 is depriving millions of jobs and livelihood, devastating business big and small, rapidly eroding the income of the middle class, even as farmers are struggling to sow the crop for the Kharif season,” she added.

The Congress president accused the BJP government of earning additional revenue of nearly Rs.2,60,000 crore through these  “ill-advised” hikes in excise duty and increases in the price of petrol and diesel and profiteering off its people when they are down and out.

“Your government is seeking to earn an additional revenue of nearly Rs.2,60,000 crore by these ill-advised hikes in excise duty and increases in the price of petrol and diesel… These price increases are saddling our people with an additional burden of this enormous magnitude that is neither justified nor appropriate. It is the duty and responsibility of the government to alleviate suffering, not put the people to still greater hardship,” Sonia Gandhi stated.

“Given that the international price of crude oil has fallen by approximate 9 per cent over the last week (coming after a collapse of crude oil prices over the last few months), the Government is doing nothing short of profiteering off its people – when they are down and out,” the letter read.

The Congress president said despite historically low oil prices over the last six years your government’s revenues have been massively enriched by the cumulative increase in excise duty on petrol and diesel on 12 different occasions.

“This translates into a 258 per cent increase in excise on petrol and 820 per cent hike in excise duty on diesel yielding in these six years a staggering Rs.18,00,000 crore from excise collection on petrol and diesel alone. If ever there was ever a time to deploy these resources in the service of the people, it is now,” she added.

First Published:June 16, 2020, 2:03 p.m.