Fuel hike: UPA decision 'suicidal', says Left

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New Delhi, Jun 4: Dubbing ''suicidal'' the government's decision to hike fuel prices, the Left parties today asked the government to immediately revoke its decision failing which they would resort to a week-long countrywide ''halla bol''(agitation) beginning tomorrow.

Soon after the government decided on the fuel price hike, the four Left parties came down heavily on the Centre for transferring the burden on the common man and sparing private oil companies like the Reliance and Essar. The Left parties' fierce criticism came shortly after the government decided to increase the prices of petrol by Rs five per litre, diesel by Rs three per litre and LPG by Rs 50 per cylinder, which will come into effect from midnight tonight.In a joint statement, the CPI(M), CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc demanded that the government cut excise duties more and impose windfall taxes on private companies.

They said the government had ignored their suggestions and instead refused to impose a windfall profits tax on the oil and the gas extracting companies and private oil refineries.

''The spectacle of these companies reaping huge profits while the common people are burdened with huge price increases will not be lost on the people.'' They said this onslaught on the people came at a time when they were suffering the steep rise of all essential commodities. ''Against the background of the failure of the government to tackle the galloping inflation, this hike in petroleum prices will further aggravate the inflationary situation.'' CPI leaders AB Bardhan and Shamim Faizi told UNI that the ''halla bol'' will be in the form of various protest methods mainly picketing, rail and raasta roko, rallies and demonstrations.

The leaders said the government had taken a disastrous course and will pay a heavy price. ''We still think that the government should reconsider the price structure of petrol and petroleum products. It should withdraw all government levies taxes and excise duties and help the oil marketing companies so as to provide them commodities at subsidised rates.'' They said the government should also immediately cancel all oil extracting contracts with private players like Reliance and Essar. ''These private companies are exporting indigenously extracted oil at international markets. Now most of the Reliance petrol pumps have stopped selling petrol and diesel.'' The CPI leaders deplored that the hike will lead to increased cost of production in farm sector, aggravate power crises in rural India and put heavy burden on the houshold budget of the common man.

On Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's inability to provide subsidy in this context, they said the government is in one way funding local corporate sectors and even foreign capital in various ways. ''The Prime Minister talks about non-availability of funds only when subsidy has to be provided to common people.'' CPI(M) senior leader Dipankar Mukherjee said the government's decision is suicidal and highly unjustified as it had chosen to tax the consumers for no fault of theirs and help the profit-making private oil companies.

Forward Bloc general Sectretary and Rajya Sabha MP Debabrata Biswas said, ''This is not the government of the aam Admi (common man).''

UNI

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