A war of words broke pout between Haryana Home Minister Anil and the Congress leadership after the Opposition party termed the state government’s move to hike VAT on diesel and petrol, increase the bus fares as “anti people”.
“Why doesn’t the Congress say Jazia Tax has been imposed when its government in Rajasthan increased prices of petrol and diesel only over a month ago,” Vij asked.
The Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan had in March announced a hike in the VAT rates on petrol from 30 per cent to 34 per cent and from 22 per cent to 26 per cent on diesel.
The Congress slammed the state government for hiking bus fares by 15 paise per km and increasing VAT on petrol by Re 1 and that on diesel by Rs. 1.1 per litre, and also deciding to impose one per cent market fee and one per cent Haryana Rural Development Fund cess on the sale of fruits and vegetables in “mandis”.
Former chief minister and Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the “government is imposing taxes on common people who have zero income these days”.
“Every citizen, including the poor, farmers, shopkeepers, daily wage earners, workers and businessmen, who were suffering from the economic impact of corona induced lockdown, expected relief from the government. All the economic activity has come to a standstill…However, the government is acting contrary to people’s expectations,” Hooda said.
He said that the government should rather immediately provide relief to daily wage earners, hair dressers, tailors, rickshaw pullers, auto drivers, tea shop owners, artisans, masons, cobblers who have been hit the hardest by the lockdown.
The party’s chief spokesperson, Randeep Singh Surjewala, and state unit president Kumari Selja said while other governments were putting money in people’s hand during the crisis caused by the pandemic, the BJP-JJP dispensation was “burdening the people by taking anti-people decisions”.
Addressing a press briefing through video-conferencing, Surjewala said, “Hours after the all-party meeting, the government took these anti-people decisions. Is this not proof of political dishonesty? If Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had to increase these prices, was it not his duty to put these facts before the all-party meet?”
While Surjewala termed the hikes in VAT as as the new “Jazia Tax”, Selja said, “The BJP has a history of taking anti-people decisions during evening hours … demonetisation is one such example.”
Reacting to this, Vij, who is also the state health minister, said, “The coronavirus pandemic has affected the world economy, economy of our country, the individuals. No one has remained unaffected.”
“We increased bus fares after four years. The expenses of running state transport has increased by 46 per cent and the fare which has been increased is not even 20 per cent,” he said.
On the hike in diesel and petrol prices, Vij said that in the all-party meeting on the COVID situation, the government had clearly stated the state’s current fiscal position. The Congress had also agreed that the state should take loans at this juncture, Vij claimed.
“They were told that state has lost nearly Rs. 6,000 crore revenue so far ever since the coronavirus-triggered lockdown was put in place. We had to borrow nearly Rs. 3,000 crore,” he said.
Vij added that there was no intention to burden the common people. “People very well understand what the current situation is and they are cooperating with us,” he said.
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