New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rollback the hike in fuel prices, saying the government's decision to increase them during the coronavirus crisis is "wholly insensitive" and "ill-advised".
Given that the international price of crude oil has fallen by approximately nine per cent over the last week, the government is doing nothing short of "profiteering off its people" when they are down and out, she said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Petrol and diesel prices were hiked for the 10th day in a row on Tuesday. While the price of petrol has gone up cumulatively by Rs 5.47 per litre, price of diesel has increased by Rs 5.8 per litre.
"I am deeply distressed that in these exceedingly difficult times since the beginning of March, the government has taken the wholly insensitive decision to increase petrol and diesel prices on no less than ten separate occasions," Gandhi said in her letter.
She accused the government of earning an additional revenue of nearly Rs 2.6 lakh crore through these "ill-advised" hikes in excise duty and increase in prices of petrol and diesel.
"I urge you to roll back these increases and pass on the benefit of low oil prices directly to the citizens of this country.
"If you wish for them to be 'self-reliant' then do not place financial fetters on their ability to move forward," the Congress president said.
Gandhi also urged the government to use its resources to put money directly into the hands of those in need in these times of severe hardship.
She said India is facing unprecedented public health, economic and social challenges during the ongoing battle against COVID-19 and its people are facing unimaginable hardships like widespread fear and insecurity.
"These price increases are saddling our people with an additional burden of this enormous magnitude that is neither justified nor appropriate," she added.
Gandhi said, "It is the duty and responsibility of the government to alleviate suffering, not put the people to still greater hardship."
"I see no logic in why the government would even consider such a price increase at a time when the economic impact of COVID-19 is depriving millions of jobs and livelihood, devastating business(es) big and small, rapidly eroding the income of the middle class, even as farmers are struggling to sow the crop for the Kharif season," she said.
"If ever there was a time to deploy these resources in the service of the people, it is now," she said.
The Congress has been demanding that petrol and diesel prices be brought under the ambit of GST. It has also demanded a rollback of excise duty hikes on petrol and diesel to bring down the prices.
The opposition party has said the government is earning out of the pockets of the poor by imposing high taxes on petrol and diesel, depriving the common man of the benefit of lower crude oil prices. PTI