Fuel price hike to serve long term interests : Congress

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New Delhi, Jun 4 (UNI) The Congress today said though the fuel price hike was a 'hard decision," it was a considered one in the long-term interests of the country.

''We have taken a very difficult decision in trying circumstances...We have taken the decision with a heavy heart,'' AICC Spokesman Manish Tewari told mediapersons, while reacting to the increase of Rs 50 per cylinder of LPG and Rs 5 and Rs 3 of petrol and diesel per litre respectively.

He asked the state governments to cut down rates of VAT and Sales tax on petroleum products to provide a cushion effect.

In this context, he highlighted the Centre's decision to reduce the customs duty by 5 per cent on crude and its products, excise duty by Re 1 per litre on petrol and diesel and import duty on crude from 5 per cent to zero per cent, on diesel and petrol from 7.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent and all other petroleum products, including aviation turbine fuel (ATF), from 10 per cent to 5 per cent.

"The UPA government has tried its best to absorb bulk of the impact of the increase in international oil prices. But a hike in the retail oil prices is inevitable. The choice before the government was very limited. The government had, therefore, decided to bite the bullet." Referring to the opposition of the BJP and the Left over the oil price hike, he said, "all should consider the sensitivity of the situation. They should not do politics in this." Asked if the Left Parties, which were providing crucial prop to the UPA government from outside, were consulted before the oil price hike, Mr Tewari said all decisions of the government were collective decision of the UPA constituents. All UPA allies were part of the consultative process. "The outside allies like the Left parties were also in the loop." In this context, he said the Left parties had their own perception of looking at things.

Mr Tewari took strong exception to the BJP describing the UPA government as "economic terrorists," and said "the BJP is the only party that can say this. It is the only party which is doing politics of terror, fear and riots." Saying that the BJP should have introspected before levelling such charges against the UPA, he reeled out figures to prove that the quantum of increase in retail oil prices was less under the present government than the NDA government despite price of crude oil going up by 203 per cent between May 2004 and March 2008.

He said the NDA government had increased the price of PDS kerosene by Rs 6.49 per litre under its rule, but the UPA government had not hiked even by a paisa during the past four years.

The price of LPG cylinder had gone up by Rs 109.60 during 1999-2004 under the NDA. The increase during the UPA regime, including the present hike of Rs 50 per cylinder, was Rs 83.15 only.

The increase in the price of diesel during NDA rule was Rs 12.87, but that during UPA rule was Rs 12.02, including the present hike of Rs 3 per litre.

However, the increase in the price of petrol was a little higher under the UPA government than the NDA government. The increase under UPA was Rs 14.51, including the present hike of Rs 5 per litre, while it was Rs 11.77 under the NDA.

UNI SH RP AS1907

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