Fuel price hike was avoidable: Left parties

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New Delhi, Jun 11: Hundreds of activists of four Left parties today marched to Parliament to pressure the government to roll back the recent hike in fuel prices, claiming had the Congress-led coalition accepted their suggestions, this rise could have been avoided. The slogan-shouting agitators gathered at Mandi House and proceeded towards Parliament, but were stopped by the police in front of the Parliament Police Station, where the top Left leaders- Sitaram Yechury, D Raja and G Devarajan- addressed them.

The protestors, carrying placards and banners depicting anti-fuel hike slogans, demanded the government accept the Left five-point charter of demands, which includes greater cuts on excise and customs on crude oil, strenghtening the public distribution system (PDS) and further changing the Essential Commodities Act to empower the states to take action against the black marketeers and hoaders.

The march was the culmination of the week-long agitation against fuel hike, which began June 5, a day after the government decided to hike the price of petrol by Rs 5 per litre, diesel by Rs 3 and LPG by Rs 50.

The CPI(M), CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc held hartal, demonstrations, rallies and meetings in West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura, Assam, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and several other places in the country.

Addressing the marchers, CPI(M) polit bureau member and Rajya Sabha MP Sitaram Yechury said that the Petroleum Ministry, which had made losses, had indeed made miscalculations. ''The private companies are indeed making huge profits and the Finance Ministry is collecting huge taxes. The government should rather give relief to the consumers,'' he added.

He alleged the Centre was giving benefits to the corporates and the rich and taxing the poor. He also alleged the government had ignored their suggestions only to help the private oil giants like Reliance and ESSAR. The decision had a cascading effect on the poor and the middle class, he said.

CPI national secretary D Raja claimed that had the government acted upon the Left suggestions, which it gave repeatedly for the last three to four years, this hike would have been avoided.

''What the government has now done is too little and too late. We have been asking the government to tax the private sector refineries, which sell the petroleum products only in the international market.

But the government is keeping mum, for reasons best known to it. Now it is abundantly clear that the UPA government is not on the side of the common man. It is on the side of the corporate sector.'' Forward Bloc national secretary D Devarajan claimed that the oil companies' loss is not the actual loss. It is under recovery.

Mr Devarajan also questioned the wisdom of the big advertisements being given by these oil companies. He also demanded that the government should impose tax on the windfall profits being made by the petroleum refineries.

The other Left leaders who addressed the protestors included RSP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Abani Roy and CPI senior leader Amarjeet Kaur.

The Left parties are most likely to meet here on June 19, to further chalk out the course of action against fuel hike, they added.

UNI

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