New Delhi, Indore, Agartala, June 5 : After calling for day-long shutdowns in the three communist ruled Indian States, Left party leaders led a protest march in New Delhi today against the fuel price hike.
The government had on Wednesday announced an increase in the prices of petrol and diesel by about 10 per cent and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) by 17 per cent, the biggest hike in fuel prices in 12 years.
Government raised petrol prices by 5 rupees, diesel by 3 rupees and cooking gas cylinder by 50 rupees.
Activists of Communist Party of India (Marxist) with red flags in their hands, blocked the Connaught Place area and stalled traffic.
The activists shouted anti-government slogans and burnt an effigy demanding a roll back in the fuel price hike.
"To put pressure, we have the whole nation. In Bengal, Kerala, Tripura, we have called shutdowns. We are agitated and we want to pressurize the government to see that the price rise is rolled back," said Dipankar Mukherjee, a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) which is supporting the UPA Government from the outside.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has opted for an ironic way to register its protest against the price hike, by taking out a bullock cart and horse cart procession in central Indore city.
Scores of BJP activists were led by senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu. The message was that the country was going back into the bullock cart age because of the steep fuel price hike.
A shutdown was also observed in Agartala. Shops, educational institutions, offices and petrol pumps remained closed.
The Left parties have already announced a country-wide protest for August 20.
The Congress Party lead UPA Government, however, justified the hike, saying that the decision was unavoidable following mounting losses to public sector oil companies due to three-fold increase in prices of international crude.
The inflation is expected to rise up to 10 per cent due to rise in the fuel prices, according to experts.
Meanwhile, some of the states have decided to cut the sales tax on auto fuels by about five per cent in an effort to reduce the impact of fuel price increase.
The West Bengal Government said it would incur a five-billion-rupee loss by cutting sales tax on petrol to 20 per cent from 25 per cent earlier, and sales tax on diesel to 12.5 per cent from 17 per cent.
National Democratic Alliance-ruled Bihar has also cut sales tax on diesel by 1.64 per cent points to 18.36 per cent and on petrol by 2.5 per cent to 24.5 per cent, nearly negating the fuel price hike.
Communist-ruled Kerala, has also agreed in-principle to cut sales tax, but is expected to announce the change only next week, a government official said.
The Maharashtra Government has already indicated a likely cut, reports said.
Nearly half of the retail auto fuel prices in India comprise of duties and taxes, with sales tax, which varies in different states, ranging from 10 per cent to 30 per cent.