Jammu, Jul 15 (PTI) Lashing out at the Centre for the 'unprecedented' price hike of essential commodities, the Congress on Thursday said BJP leaders who used to protest on every fraction of price rise while in opposition are mute spectators in the government now as ministers.
AICC spokesperson Ragini Nayak also accused the Narendra Modi government of being insensitive to the plight of the poor and the common man, saying it earned about Rs 25 lakh crore through taxes in the last six-and-a-half years from petrol, diesel and cooking gas, during the period of worst economic distress in the country.
Addressing a joint press conference along with AICC in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir affairs Rajni Patil and JKPCC chief G A Mir, Nayak said, 'There is an unprecedented price rise in everything. Top BJP leaders who used to protest on every fraction of price rise while in opposition are mute spectators in the government as ministers over the price hike.' She referred to the price hike in fertilisers, pesticides and agriculture appliances and the imposition of GST and other taxes further burdening the farmers.
'As many as 700 farmers have died agitating but the Modi government is insensitive and unmoved,' the Congress leader said.
She said the crude oil prices in the international market have come down to less than half compared to the UPA government's days, but the rates of per litre of petrol and diesel are one-and-a-half times more and that of domestic gas is more than double.
'The price of crude oil was USD 108 per barrel in the UPA era and the rates of petrol and diesel were between Rs 65 and Rs 70 per litre. Now, it is USD 45-50 per barrel but the petrol price is more than Rs 100 per litre in over 200 cities and that of diesel has crossed Rs 90 per litre. Cooking gas, which used to cost Rs 414 per cylinder when the Congress was in power, is above Rs 900 today,' Nayak said.
She said from January 1 to July this year, the fuel prices were revised 65 times.
'The excise collection in 2014-2015 was Rs 1.72 lakh crore, which has gone up to Rs 4.53 lakh crore presently,' Nayak said.
She said 27 crore people were uplifted from the BPL category when Manmohan Singh was the prime minister, while under the Modi regime, 23 crore people have slipped back to the category.
'Unemployment is highest in 45 years, while it was promised that two crore jobs would be given annually. The CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy)has disclosed that two crores jobs were lost only in a two-month period,' Nayak added.
Accusing the government of being insensitive towards the plight of the poor people and the common man, she said it has earned about Rs 25 lakh crore through a multi-fold increase in taxes in the last six-and-a-half years from petrol, diesel and cooking gas, 'during the period of worst economic distress in the country'.
The Congress leader said while lakhs of people lost their lives due to Covid as the government failed to prepare for the second wave of the pandemic and crores of people lost their jobs, the government is adding to the people's burden by hiking the prices of all commodities.
'Ninety-seven per cent people had a reduced income during the period while Rs 1.25 lakh crore were withdrawn from the provident fund, which indicates the worst economic distress in the country,' she added.
Referring to the Centre's Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Nayak said of the 29 crore beneficiaries, 23 crore are in the BPL (below poverty line) category and asked if they can afford to buy a gas cylinder for Rs 900.
'The UPA had given Rs 1.42 lakh crore as subsidy on gas, the price of which has crossed Rs 900 per cylinder now,' she added.
She demanded that the Modi government consider implementing the 'Nyay' scheme suggested by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, 'may be by changing the name and reducing the taxes on petrol, diesel and cooking gas'.
'Till the time the government understands the pain of the people and take urgent measures to control and bring down the prices, the Congress party shall continue to hit the streets and take up the issues of the public from the roads to Parliament,' Nayak said.
Patil said the Congress has launched a nationwide protest programme from July 7-17 and would continue to press for reducing the taxes and controlling the prices of all commodities of common use. PTI AB RC