Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reduce fuel prices by partially rolling back excise duty, saying that the prices of petrol and diesel are at 'historic and unsustainable' high. She said that the central government has unreasonably levied excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 33 and Rs 32, respectively, which is higher than the base price of these fuels. "This is nothing short of extortion to cover up economic mismanagement," she said.
"Fuel prices are at an historic and unsustainable high. In fact, Petrol has breached the Rs 100/litre mark in many parts of the country. The surging price of Diesel has added to the escalating woes of millions of farmers," Sonia Gandhi said in a letter to the Prime Minister.
Given that fuel prices have been hiked despite moderate prices of international crude oil, she said, "the government has chosen to profiteer off people's misery and suffering." She further stated that the Modi government raised prices continuously for 12 days till February 20, which is little less than a "brazen act of profiteering".
Comparing crude oil prices to that of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) era, Sonia said the crude oil price is nearly half of what it was during the previous government's tenure.
She alleged that the government refused to reduce fuel prices even when global crude oil crashed to $20 per barrel last year. "The whole principle of deregulation and dynamic pricing is predicated on the principle that reductions in crude oil prices will proportionately benefit the end consumers. The fact that your government fails to do so implies a deliberate and conscious decision to deny the common man his legitimate due," Sonia said.
In her letter, the Congress leader said the central government has increased excise duty on diesel by 820 per cent and on petrol by 258 per cent and collected upwards of Rs 21 lakh crore in the last six and a half years. "This unaccounted-for windfall is yet to be passed to the people for whose benefit it was ostensibly collected," she said.
Seeking a justification from the government over Rs 175 hike in cylinder price in two and a half months since December 2020, she said "the astronomical rise in domestic non-subsidised LPG Gas cylinder to Rs 769 in Delhi (and over Rs 800 in many states like Uttar Pradesh) is even more cruel and has impacted every household."
"The truth is that as GDP nose dives, the prices of Gas, Diesel & Petrol continue to rise unchecked," she said.
"What is equally distressing is that despite being in power for almost 7-years now, your government continues to blame previous regimes for its own economic mismanagement. To set the record straight, domestic crude oil production has fallen to an 18-year low in the year 2020," she wrote.
The senior leader said that the governments are elected to ease the burden of its people. She urged the PM to roll back these increases and pass on the benefit to its fellow citizens who are battling an unprecedented economic slowdown, widespread unemployment, wage reductions and job losses, high prices and erosion of income.
Meanwhile, Petrol and Diesel prices remain unchanged on February 21, after rising for 12 consecutive days as international crude oil rates stabilised, according to price notification from state-run oil marketing companies (OMCs).
Fuel prices touched new highs across metros on Saturday, February 20, while having already crossed Rs 100 in several non-metro cities earlier. Petrol and diesel in Delhi remained constant at Rs 90.58 and Rs 80.97 a litre, respectively, while they stayed at Rs 97 and Rs 88.60 per litre in Mumbai. In February, petrol prices have gone up by Rs 4.29 per litre and diesel by Rs 4.31 per litre in Delhi so far.