The Congress Monday held protests in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh against the hike in petrol and diesel prices, with party leaders saying that it has dealt a major blow to the farming community and is bound to have a cascading effect and burden the common people who are already facing hardships due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Diesel price on Monday scaled a new high after prices were hiked for the 22nd time in just over three weeks, taking the cumulative increase to Rs 11.14 per litre. Petrol in Punjab on Monday was priced at Rs 82.27 a litre against Rs 72.19 on June 1 while diesel was sold at Rs 74.38 litre against 63.84 per litre on June 1.
The Congress workers rode horse carts with their scooters loaded on them and pulled tractors with ropes while demanding an immediate rollback of the hike.
In Punjab, party chief Sunil Jakhar led the protest in Nawanshahr where he along with MLAs Angad Singh and Darshan Lal Mangupur and Punjab Youth Congress chief Barinder Dhillon pulled a tractor with ropes.
Alleging that the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre was a government of moneylenders, for moneylenders and by moneylenders, Jakhar said, “In Punjab, when freight vehicles were taxed, the tractor was declared as a farmer’s cart. Now the Cetre has actually turned tractors into carts because farmers cannot afford diesel to run their tractors now”.
Rather than doubling farmers’ income which the BJP had promised, they are punishing them with an increase in fuel rates, said Jakhar. “Farmers performed exceedingly well despite the coronavirus pandemic by producing 127 lakh tonne of wheat in Punjab. Rather than giving some encouragement to them, the government is punishing them,” Jakhar said.
The Congress leader said that one hand Prime Minister is giving Rs 6000 per year to farmers under Kisan Samman Yojna and on the other he is taking back the money by hiking hiking diesel prices.
Meanwhile, the BJP in Punjab targeted the Congress government asking it to rationalise the tax structure in state to bring down the fuel prices.
BJP state president Ashwani Sharma, said, “It is time for the state government to pass on some benefit to consumer by reducing state taxes on fuel. Rather than blaming Centre, they should rationalise their tax structure and hence help consumers in getting fuel at cheaper prices”.
While skirting queries on the near daily hike in fuel prices over last three weeks, Sharma said, said, “Punjab should bring its taxes at par with Haryana”.
The Punjab government on June 15 had increased Value Added Tax on petrol from 23.3 per cent to 26. 43 per cent, and that on diesel from 15.15 per cent to 15.98 per cent, claiming that the hike will help it realise an additional Rs 250 crore to Rs 300 crore per annum in revenue.
Hitting out at the BJP for questioning the state imposed VAT on fuel, Jakhar said, “Excise and fuel are the only sources of revenue for Punjab. I am surprised that the rival parties are focused on Punjab’s VAT on fuel. They want Punjab to go bankrupt and forgo fuel revenue as well.”
In neighbouring Haryana, state Congress unit chief Kumari Selja led a protest in Karnal, which is also Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s home constituency. She said despite international crude oil prices being at their lowest, the Centre, instead of passing on the benefits to the common people, is constantly hiking fuel prices.
“The Centre has repeatedly been hiking prices for the past three weeks. If this continues, it will lead to inflation, transport will be costly, the economy, which is already in bad shape, will further deteriorate. By such steps, the government is indulging in profiteering and not helping anyone to become Atma Nirbhar (self-reliant),” Selja said, demanding an immediate roll-back of the prices.
Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said every section, said, “This government talked about doubling the income of farmers by 2022, but now it seems they are going to double the input cost of the farmers by then”.
Himachal Pradesh too saw protests by Congress with party’s women’s wing workers holding a protest march in Shimla.
(With inputs from Ludhiana, Jalandhar)
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