Rising fuel prices, indifferent govt

The sky-rocketing petrol and diesel price is not only burning holes in the pocket of the aam admi but is burning the economy as well. The Centre is indifferent, unworried, unmoved. A Union minister has said, fuel prices are rising because global price of crude is rising, we have no control over it, we can’t do anything, we are helpless. To add insult to injury, a Rajasthan minister has given a gratuitous advice to the people: cut down your expenses. The minister did not care to explain how the aam admi who finds it harder and harder every day to make two ends meet can ‘cut down’ expenses on what items. The Centre refuses to bring fuel prices under GST, refuses to reduce tax on fuels. Instead, it cheekily advises the States to bring down State taxes on fuel.
Monday saw the BJP president meeting the Union Petroleum minister and having an hour and a half long session with him, apparently discussing fuel price hike. The outcome is not known. The Prime Minister is maintaining an inexplicable silence. The Finance Minister issues statements from time to time, assuring people that there is nothing to worry about; the economy can absorb the impact of fuel price rise. He does not care to find out whether the people are really feeling assured. Uncharitable critics of the Government say, in hushed tones, that rising fuel prices are being allowed to play havoc with the economy because, sensing defeat and loss of power in the next elections, the government is consciously pursuing an economic scorched-earth policy. Not convincing but hard to refute either.
In the circumstances, the Bharat Bandh call given by the Congress, the Left parties and some other parties has met with a limited success but enough to establish the fact that the people are angry, unhappy and indignant. In West Bengal the ruling TMC expressed solidarity with the movement to bring down fuel prices but refused to participate in the Bandh. So the Bandh could not make much impact on daily life in West Bengal. But it does not mean that the people have cheerfully accepted the fuel price rise. The Centre’s apparent indifference is, indeed, baffling. With several State Assembly elections in the offing and general elections slated for the next year, the BJP should have shown intense concern for the cascading effect the rising fuel prices are going to have on the economy. That the ruling party is not, means there is far greater suffering in store for the people in the coming days.

Monday, 10 September, 2018