Fuel price hike: Govt has chosen to 'profiteer off people's misery', says J-K Congress

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Jammu, Feb 22 (PTI) The Congress' Jammu and Kashmir unit on Monday slammed the Centre over the rise in petrol and diesel prices, saying the government has chosen to 'profiteer off people's misery'.

Members of the party staged protests here and demanded immediate rollback of the hike in the fuels' prices.

The middle class and the marginalised are struggling. These challenges have been compounded by 'run-away inflation and an unprecedented rise in the price of almost all household items and essential commodities', Senior Congress leader Raman Bhalla said.

'Sadly, in these distressing times, the government has chosen to profiteer off people's misery and suffering,' he said.

Petrol price on Saturday touched an all-time high of Rs 97 per litre in Mumbai while diesel rate crossed Rs 88-mark. This was the 12th straight day of price hike and the largest daily increase since oil companies started to revise rates on a daily basis in 2017.

The increase pushed the petrol price to Rs 90.58 a litre in Delhi and to Rs 97 in Mumbai.

Carrying placards and raising slogans against the BJP government at the Centre, protesters tried to move towards the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor's residence but were stopped by police midway.

Several of the protesters, including Bhalla, Congress leaders Yogesh Sawhney and Ravinder Sharma, and Youth Congress president Uday Bhanu Chib, were detained and taken to the Pacca Danga Police Station during the protest and later released, the party said.

Some protesters also clashed with police during the demonstration, in which the Congress also raised the implementation of the property tax policy by the Jammu and Kashmir administration.

Sawhney said he vehemently opposes the implementation of the policy.

Businesses have remained shut for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people have lost their jobs and prices are going through the roof, and now imposition of another tax on the people will be unjust, he said.

'The decision was taken by the BJP government and then thrusted upon the union territory without any consideration or consultation with stakeholders. Be it our pilgrim-based tourism industry, or hotel industry, or other businesses, there has been no economic development,' he said.

On fuel price hikes, Bhalla said fuel prices are at a 'historic and unsustainable' high.

In fact, petrol has breached the Rs 100-litre mark in many parts of the country, he said.

'The surging price of diesel has added to the escalating woes of millions of farmers. What baffles most citizens, is that these prices have been increased despite moderate prices of international crude oil,' Bhalla said.

To put it in context, the crude oil price is nearly half of what it was during the UPA government's tenure. Therefore, the BJP government's act of raising prices is little less than a brazen act of profiteering, he said.

On Jammu and Kashmir, Sawhney alleged that no measures have been taken to give an economic boost or jump-start the union territory's growth and development.

'Instead, new and newer measures are being introduced to exploit, loot, and extort money. That is their formula. BJP has not addressed any really major issues of Jammu and Kashmir like unemployment or economic situation, but has exploited the trust of the people who might have voted for them, but now even they regret doing so,' he said.

Accusing the government of 'profiteering' off 'people's misery', Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over 'spiralling' fuel prices, urging him to follow ‘Raj Dharma’ and reduce the prices by partially rolling back excise duty.

In a three-page letter to Modi, she said the government has been 'unreasonably overzealous' in levying excessive excise duty on petrol and diesel and asserted that this was 'nothing short of extortion' to cover up 'economic mismanagement'. PTI AB ANB ANB