Political parties, industry assail hike in fuel prices

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New Delhi, Feb 14 (UNI) The government's decision to hike fuel prices today came in for sharp criticism from political circles and the industry alike with the Left Parties and the BJP slamming the move and the industry apprehending triggering of inflationary pressures in the wake of the rise.

The Left Parties said the decision sent a wrong message to the people of the country ahead of the general budget.

The Left warned the Congress that it would have to pay a heavy price in the nine assembly polls slated this year and the Lok Sabha polls next year.

The Left parties said the government did not realise that its decision to ignore the Left's ''alternative proposals'' would further contribute towards its ''overwhelming'' loss of support of the 'Aam Admi'.

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), in a statement, condemned the ''unwarranted hike in the prices of petrol and diesel, under the plea of an upward revision in international crude prices''.

Condemning the Centre's decision to hike the prices, the CPI(ML), in a statement, said ,''this is the eighth time prices of petroleum products have been hiked in the UPA government's tenure.

This latest hike is bound to create a spiralling rise in prices of essential commodities which are sky high as it is.'' The party has announced its intention to agitate nationwide against the increase in prices and demanded that the UPA withdraw it immediately.

While the CPI Central Secretariat asked its all units in the country to hold protest against fuel hike, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member M K Pandhe told UNI the government's decision would further alienate the people from the Congress.

The CPI said, ''It is unfortunate that the government had chosen to ignore the Left suggestions-- reducing the customs and excise duty on oil, changing over from ad valorem to specific duties and setting up of the Stablisation Fund among others.'' Meanwhile, the BJP regretted the timing of the hike and termed it ''the one that would trigger inflationary trend''.

BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said the decision to increase price was an eighth by the UPA government and it would adversely affect the economy. The Government should have considered the option of revenue neutralisation as recommended by the Expenditure Finance Commission's to give relief to 'aam admi'(the common man) who was made to consume costliest petrol in the world.

In the interim, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora appealed to all to ''co-operate'' with the government, for most the decision evoked dismay as they may have to pay even more for their bread and butter.

Petroleum Secretary M S Srinivasan said, '' The price revision next year can be much higher and substantial.'' On the industry front, PHD Chamber President L K Malhotra said, ''The hike in the prices of petrol and diesel by Rs 2 and Re 1 per litre respectively announced by the government today would trigger inflationary pressures in the economy which in turn would have adverse repercussions on competitiveness of India's industry in general and national economy in particular.'' Reacting to the hike, another industry body Ficci also had the same view, that the hike in petroleum and diesel prices would understandably add to the inflationary pressures.

''Given the high level of international crude prices, some adjustments of the domestic retail prices had become inevitable as under- realisation on sale of petroleum, diesel and other products had reached staggering of Rs 71,808 crore,'' Ficci said in a statment.

Though CII refused to comment directly on the issue, the body said oil price hike was inevitable, Assocham hailed the government decision describing it a sensible one that will reduce under-recoveries of oil marketing companies to some extent.

''This should have been done long back as losses of oil marketing companies have already mounted but expressed satisfaction that atleast a sensible decision has been taken now as crude oil prices are increasing internationally and that the common man ought to bear the burden of rising crude oil prices,'' Assocham President, Venugopal N Dhoot said.

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