Struggle must be intensified to defend livelihoods of the people and their basic rights
SRINAGAR, February 27: The relentless increase in the prices of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and other essential commodities has created havoc for a common people who were already burdened by the Covid-19 pandemic woes of joblessness and loss of incomes.
To add with this the steep hike of 19% in passenger fare have a cascading effect on the people already over-burdened by sky-high price rise. These anti-people decisions of the government are bound to further hit the common man already reeling under price rise and inflation.
The lower and middle income groups are the worst hit by the steep price rises and have pushed them to the brink. They are faced with the dual burden of depressed wages and rising unemployment on the one hand and price rise of food items and other essential commodities on the other.
The upward spiral in petrol, diesel and LPG prices are affecting all sections of the people. Amongst the worst affected are those who have lost jobs and livelihoods; small businesses, shopkeepers and vendors depending on transportation of goods have seen their costs rising; farmers are being made to pay more for diesel for their tractors and pumps; transportation costs are rising for those depending on daily wages in the unorganised sector; there is a dampening effect on the efforts of the small and micro enterprises to survive the recession; and middle-class budgets are feeling the strain of increased costs for private and public transportation and LPG cylinders.
The government and the oil companies justify the increase citing the rising global prices of crude oil. This is, however, a specious claim. The single biggest reason for the crushing burden is the exorbitant central taxes on petroleum products. Between 2014-15 and 2021-21, prices of the Indian basket of crude oil (the mix of crude oils that India buys) went up by 17.6 per cent.
In the same period, the average retail selling price in India went up by 55.3 per cent for petrol and 72.5 per cent for diesel. It is clear that the retail prices have increased far more than the global price levels.
The lockdown and the pandemic have exacerbated and deepened the inequalities of income and wealth in our society. In such a situation, the government should have increased taxes on the super-rich, imposed a wealth tax and asked the corporates who have made huge profits in this period to pay up more. Instead, by such iniquitous taxation on petrol and diesel, the centre is looting the meagre resources of the people.
The government must be compelled to substantially rollback the excise duties and cess on petroleum products. For this, the struggle must be intensified and it should become part of the struggle to defend the livelihoods of the people and their basic rights.