New Delhi: The Congress on Sunday accused the Centre of profiteering by “mercilessly” imposing taxes on petrol and diesel, and demanded that the Narendra Modi government pass on the benefits of a fall in the international crude oil prices to people to provide relief to them from the “back-breaking inflation”.
In a statement in Hindi, Congress general secretary (in charge, communications) Jairam Ramesh said the Centre can give relief to people from the rising prices if it wants to by cutting the petrol and diesel rates by Rs 25-30 per litre through lowering the taxes to the level that existed under the previous UPA government and stop the ongoing “profiteering”.
“Our demand is that the Modi government should reduce the prices of petrol and diesel by 35 per cent, in line with the huge reduction in the international crude oil prices, and give the benefits of the record fall in the international crude oil prices to the people of the country, so that they get some relief from the back-breaking inflation,” he said.
People are facing an economic crisis due to inflation and unemployment, but the BJP-led government is engaged in “looting their hard-earned money”, Ramesh alleged.
“Despite the low international crude oil prices, instead of giving its benefits to the people of the country, the Modi government is profiteering mercilessly by taxing petrol and diesel and selling cheap oil at a higher price,” the Congress leader said.
The government has not made profits itself over the prices of petrol and diesel, but has also benefitted its crony capitalist friends, he alleged.
“Due to the increase in the taxes effected by the Modi government, the prices of petrol and diesel have gone up uncontrollably and the pockets of the poor, middle-class and employed people have been looted,” the former Union minister said.
Crude oil has become 35 per cent cheaper over the last one year, but the prices of petrol and diesel have not been reduced, he claimed.
Ramesh also claimed that the government as well as private oil companies are making a profit of more than Rs 10 per litre on petrol and diesel.
“Despite this, the people of the country are not being given relief by the companies. According to a report by research house Crisil, the three state-run oil companies — IOC, BPCL and HPCL — are estimated to have an operating profit of close to Rs 1 lakh crore in the current financial year, which is three times more than the last year — Rs 33,000 crore,” he said.
Also, their refining margin was expected to increase in the first quarter, he added.
Ramesh said while the government companies are making profits, this huge benefit is also being extended to the private companies.
“During the tenure of the Modi government, the average crude oil price has been less than USD 65 per barrel. For the last three months, it has continuously been between USD 70-80 per barrel. But the prices of petrol and diesel are not being reduced for the public,” he said.
“Petrol is available for more than Rs 100 per litre in most parts of the country. The price of diesel is also above Rs 90,” the Congress leader said.
In May 2014, when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power, the excise duty on petrol and diesel was only Rs 9.2 per litre and Rs 3.46 per litre respectively, he pointed out.
Under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, it is now Rs 19.9 per litre on petrol and Rs 15.8 per litre on diesel, which is 116 per cent and 357 per cent more than the prices prevailing during the UPA rule, Ramesh said.
The Congress leader claimed that the Centre has collected more than Rs 32 lakh crore from the public in the last nine years by repeatedly increasing the taxes on petrol and diesel, and added that the Congress government used to give relief to people by controlling inflation while bearing losses on petrol and diesel.
The Modi government has plunged the country into inflation with the prices of vegetables, fruits, spices and other things “skyrocketing”, he said.
“But instead of giving any relief to the public, the government is profiteering. As soon as the prices of petroleum products come down, the prices of food items will automatically come down. Buses and other means of transport will also benefit. This will provide a comprehensive relief to the entire country,” Ramesh said.
In a tweet in Hindi, the Congress leader said the government should give relief to people from inflation but instead, it is “looting the public by imposing taxes on petrol and diesel mercilessly”.
The Congress has been attacking the government over the rising prices of essential commodities and demanding immediate steps to provide relief to people.