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New Delhi: Soon after the prices of domestic LPG cylinders were hiked for the third consecutive month, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi turned the heat on the Union government, claiming that a 116% increase in the prices of cooking gas since 2014 in India was despite the significant fall in international crude oil prices.
Alluding that common people’s lives had taken a severe beating because of the constant price rise of essential commodities and the resultant cascading effects, the Wayanad MP hit out at the Union government’s indifference and equated the increase in gross domestic product (GDP) with the rise of “gas, diesel and petrol prices”.
The Union government recently put out new statistics to show that the GDP, which had taken a massive hit in the last two years, was recovering.
Gandhi’s statements came on the heels of his recent criticism of the asset monetisation programme, in which the Centre intends to lease out India’s assets to private companies – a move the government claims would fetch it nearly Rs 6 lakh crore. The Congress leader and his party likened the initiative to a clearance sale of public assets, which were established over the last 70 years, to benefit a handful of crony capitalists.
On Wednesday, the former Congress president said that it is unclear whether more than Rs 23 lakh crore that the government earned by increasing the fuel prices were being spent. However, he claimed that the increase has definitely been able to keep the government afloat during the economic crisis but only at the cost of deteriorating standards of living in India.
He further said the government was banking on the fuel prices’ hike to keep the economy stable, but it was a short-term strategy. “The moment international crude prices surge again, the government will struggle,” Gandhi said, while criticising the government’s alleged failure to take long-term measures to keep the Indian economy robust.
“In 2014, when we left office, LPG gas price was priced at Rs 410 per cylinder, today it is at Rs 885 per cylinder, that is a 116% increase. Petrol was Rs 71.51; it is now Rs 101.34, a 42% percent increase. Diesel was Rs 57.28, now, it is Rs. 88.77, a 55% increase,” he said. He added that the international crude oil prices were much higher than the present in 2014, and yet the Congress could keep fuel prices much lower than the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government.
“…the interesting thing is, people could argue that prices are rising, LPG gas, diesel, petrol prices are rising, because international prices are rising, but that is not the case, because crude oil prices were at $105 per barrel, when we were in power, and today it is $71, that is a decrease of 32%. International gas prices were at $880 per metric tonnes, today there are $653 per metric tonnes, i.e. a 26% drop,” he said.
When asked whether the Congress had brought in economic reforms in 1991 when faced with a similar economic crisis, Gandhi said, “At that time, the Congress government had changed the vision for India. But that is not happening now… The economic structure and strategy that ran from 1991 to 2012 is not working anymore. We accept that it stopped working in our time in 2012. But Narendra Modi came with the promise of changing all that. But where is the change?”
Gandhi has earlier similarly lashed out at the Modi government’s economic decisions like demonetisation, implementation of goods and services tax (GST), and recently, has been an outspoken critic of its COVID-19 vaccination strategy and failure to stem economic losses and unemployment during the pandemic.
“You are not benefitting from GST, not benefitting from farm laws, not benefitting on prices, then what are you getting? I want the young people of this country to think about all this,” he said.
“…three or five big industrialist friends of the prime minister are being benefitted. There is a transfer of wealth taking place from the poor, from the weak to the prime minister’s friends,” he added.