Kolkata: A day after the Congress and several other parties observed a nationwide strike to protest the fuel price hike, chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday announced a price cut by Rs 1 per litre which would be effective both for petrol and diesel from midnight across the state in a bid to give relief to the common people.
She also urged the Modi government to follow her step, throwing a challenge. West Bengal becomes the third state to slash fuel prices after Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh cut the fuel prices by Rs 2.5 per litre and Rs 2 per litre respectively. At the state secretariat Nabanna, Ms Banerjee, however, argued that some other states have been taking the similar step because they are poll-bound.
Lashing out at the Centre, the Trinamul Congress supremo again blamed its policies for the fuel price hike in the last few years. Significantly, her party had opposed Monday’s bandh in the state tooth and nail while supporting the spirit of the issue.
According to Ms Banerjee, “Some states have reduced the prices because they are going to polls. But we have to pay a debt of Rs 48,000 crores per month which no other states have.”
She argued, “Elections are going to be held in Madhya Pradesh and some other states. That is why they are planning to slash the price. But our income and revenue are limited. Still we need to take a step keeping the common people’s plight in mind. The Central government has been taxing them heavily. So we have decided to reduce the fuel prices by Rs 1 per litre.”
The chief minister said, “We also demand to the Centre to reduce the cess on diesel and petrol prices. The excise duty on petrol and diesel has been hiked nine times. The Centre also increased cess by Rs 11.77.
Besides, they are increasing the fuel price when the crude oil price is decreasing. As a result, the common people are mostly being harassed.”
Reading out a document, she told the media, “In January of 2016, the petrol price stood at Rs 65.12 per litre. It has shot up to Rs 81.60 in September this year. So the amount of hike is by Rs 16.48 per litre of petrol which is hurting the common people. In 2016, the diesel price per litre was Rs 48.80. It rose to Rs 73.26 on September 1 this year. Therefore the margin of hike grew up by Rs 24.46.”
Justifying her move, Ms Banerjee explained, “But our government never increased the sales tax and cess during these years. It was decided keeping the people in mind then. But the petrol and diesel prices have been going up for the Centre’s decisions.”
Ms Banerjee reiterated that the fuel price hike was the outcome of the Centre’s mismanagement of the economy.