Fuel price hikes for the 16th consecutive day have jolted opposition parties to raise their voices against the same. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal too has in his first such reaction asked the Centre to roll back this hike, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said it is planning an agitation over the matter.
Farmers unions too held a meeting in Barnala Monday in which they announced dharans at sub-division level on June 30.
The fuel hike started from June 6 and continued after that. As a result, petrol prices have risen by Rs 9.21 per litre while diesel prices have increased by Rs 8.55 per litre since then. Moreover, the state government has increased VAT on petrol by Rs 3.20 per litre and on petrol by Rs 2.53 per litre, which is an additional burden in Punjab.
“The price of crude oil in the international market is $40 per barrel. Such a steep hike had never taken place when crude oil was priced at $140 per barrel. Our sales have also dipped by more than 50 per cent as people are fighting a financial crunch at every sector,” said Raju Sharma, owner of an IOC pump in Ludhiana.
Meanwhile, former Punjab Cabinet minister Sikander Singh Maluka — a SAD leader — was the first one to raise his voice on this issue on Saturday when he said, “I am surprised as to why political parties are mum over this steep hike. This had never happened in the past. The common man also needs to raise his voice.”
Maluka, who is head of the farmer wing of SAD, in his video message, said, “I am surprised as to why Congress and AAP are quiet over the hike being enforced by NDA. People are already facing a financial crunch be it in the industrial or farming sector. We need to speak up before this rate crosses Rs 100 a litre mark.”
Asked about the issue, Sukhbir said, “Constant hike in fuel prices for the last one fortnight has put a huge burden on the common man. I appeal to the Union government to take steps to bring down fuel prices. Paddy transplantation is going on and this is the time when farmers need diesel the most. At the same time, Punjab government has also simultaneously affected hike by increasing VAT on petrol and diesel. These hikes should be withdrawn.”
He added, “Withdrawal is also justified keeping in view the unprecedented steep fall in international crude oil prices. Union government should direct oil companies to pass on this benefit to the common man.”
Harpal Singh Cheema, leader of Opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha, said, “When people are fighting a pandemic, their businesses have hit rock bottom, unemployment is on the rise, such a hike for 16 consecutive days is a record of sorts made by the NDA government. The masses need to be awakened to protest over this issue. We will be raising this issue as it is directly connected to inflation ahead.”
Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of the Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan), said, “It is a time when farmers are busy with paddy transplantation. Hence the government chose such a time when we have no time to get together and raise our voices. However, in paddy season, consumption of diesel is the maximum. Hence we held a meeting in Barnala on Monday and planned to hold sub-division level dharnas across the state on June 30, when we will be relatively free from paddy transplantation.”
Farmers, industrialists, hoteliers have also started a social media campaign in which a progressive farmer Abjinder Sangha wrote, “#Farmers, industry, transporters, hoteliers, migrants etc people across the country are struggling with financial crisis but the Modi govt continues to increase petrol and diesel prices. Is the @BJP4India not aware of rising oil prices? It seems the Govt has put masks on the eyes.”
Petrol prices have increased from Rs 72.19 per litre to 81.27 per litre in Punjab while diesel prices have increased from Rs 63.84 per litre to Rs 72.87 per litre.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines