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Oil protests force govt to put off meet on LPG
UPA allies join hands with Opposition to slam petrol price hike
Tribune News Service & PTI

New Delhi, September 16
The Trinamool Congress and the DMK today forced the government to hold back any move to limit the supply of subsidised LPG even as the allies joined the Opposition in demanding the rollback of hike in petrol prices.

The decision of the government to hike the rate of petrol by Rs 3 per litre witnessed a political and public outrage across the country.

Slamming the increase in petrol prices, Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister and leader of the Trinamool Congress, the second largest constituent of the UPA, expressed her opposition to any LPG price hike.

Along with the Trinamool, the DMK and the NCP also were critical of the petrol hike. A meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on limiting the supply of subsidised LPG was deferred at the last minute after objections from the Trinamool and the DMK.

Official sources said the meeting was called off “due to non-availability” of certain members of the panel and no new dates have been notified.

The EGoM was to consider limiting the supply of subsidised LPG cylinders to 4-6 per household in a year to cut down the government’s subsidy outgo by over Rs 12,000 crore.
The EGoM on lpg was to consider limiting the supply of subsidised cylinders to 4-6 per household in a year to cut down the government’s subsidy outgo by over Rs 12,000 cr.

This could have led to the price of non-subsidised gas cylinders pegged at over Rs 700 per cylinder. DMK leader and Fertiliser Minister MK Azhagiri decided not to attend the meeting to show his party’s opposition to the proposal, sources said. Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi also strongly opposed the possible hike in LPG prices. “It is not a luxury but an essential item for the common man,” he said.

“We don’t want another petrol price hike and we have already conveyed our viewpoint to the Centre,” said Mamata, who conveyed her opposition to the petrol price hike to Union Minister Ambika Soni in Kolkata.

DMK party spokesman TKS Elangovan said: “The hike in petrol prices will affect the lower and middle income groups and the poor.” NCP spokesperson DP Tripathi demanded that the government should consult allies before taking decisions on price hike. He regretted that there was no coordination with the allies on the issue.

The BJP launched a blistering attack on the government over the petrol hike and said the Congress must clarify whether it cared for the “aam aadmi ” or not. BJP workers also held a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. “The government is saying the hike was a result of the rupee weakening against the dollar. For that too, the government’s policies are responsible,” party leader Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said.

The CPM called upon party units to mobilise people to protest against the government’s move. Not just the political parties, but environmental NGO Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) also flayed the government for increasing the petrol rates. “The gap between petrol and diesel prices would further encourage people to buy diesel cars, in turn leading to higher pollution,” it said.

A “worried” Congress tried hard to wriggle out of the difficult situation, maintaining that the decision was “inevitable.” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi maintained that the party was “worried” but said he was sure that the government would find a way out so that the common man does not suffer. Countering the BJP attack, he said the NDA too had raised fuel prices several times during its regime. He asked states, especially those ruled by the BJP and its allies, to lower the VAT on petro products to give some relief to the common man. There were also reports of protests over the fuel price hike from Mumbai, Lucknow, Agartala, Amritsar, Hyderabad and other cities of the country. 




It’s decision of oil firms, says Pranab

New Delhi, September 16
The government today distanced itself from the decision to hike petrol prices saying the call was taken by oil marketing firms. “So far as petrol price is concerned, petrol has been deregulated. It is oil marketing companies' review,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said. Petrol prices were freed from the government control in June last year.

He was talking to the reporters after launching 'Land of Two Rivers', a book written by Nitish Sengupta here.

The Planning Commission said the decision was good news. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said: “What has happened (fuel price hike)... on that front it is a good news. I regard that as a vindication...(and) an increase in credibility of basic part of the reforms strategy,” said.

On impact of fuel price hike on the automobile sector, Ahluwalia said, “I don’t believe that fuel price hike is hurting investment sentiments”. — PTI




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