People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 24, 2008
CPI(M) Agitates Against Hike
In Petrol And Diesel Prices
THE CPI(M) held demonstrations across the country in protest against the hike in petrol and diesel prices announced by the UPA government. In Delhi hundreds of activists belonging to the CPI(M), CPI and RSP held a demonstration at Parliament Street on February 16. The demonstrators were addressed by Nilotpal Basu, former CPI(M) MP and central secretariat member, Dinesh Varshney, CPI national council member, and Asit Ganguli, Delhi state RSP secretary.
The speakers lambasted the central government for fuelling inflation through administered hikes in fuel prices. The people are already suffering from the unprecedented rise in prices of essential commodities. The latest increase in fuel prices will further encourage inflation and add to their miseries, they said.
The central government is levying duties of 0.51 paise and 0.31 paise on every Re 1 worth of petrol and diesel respectively. The prices of petrol and diesel can be kept in check by reducing these exorbitant duties. Thousands of crores of rupees already collected through such duties can also be used for the same purpose. The fact that the government is not willing to consider any such measures is proof of its anti-people approach.
The hike in fuel prices is nothing but another measure of looting the people through indirect taxation. The government has no qualms in handing out subsidies to the corporate sector in the form of handsome tax benefits at a time when corporate profits are reaching record levels. However, subsidies that benefit the people are anathema for it.
The unprecedented hike in prices of essential commodities was a major factor in the electoral defeat of the Congress in Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. It appears that it has not learnt any lesson from this and is obsessed, like its predecessor in central government, the BJP, with the chimera of 'India Shining'. It will have to pay the political price for such anti-people policies.
The demonstration concluded with a call to carry the campaign against the fuel hike to the people for forcing the government to withdraw it.
At the call of the central committee of the CPI(M), the Bengal unit of the Party organised and led mass demonstrations all over the state - from Darjeeling and Coochbehar on the cold and snowy north to the pleasant sea-breeze wafted coastlines of the two 24 Parganas and Midnapore east, from the red clay zones of western Bengal to the alluvial plains of Nadia, between February 14 and 18, programmes that rejected the raison d'être of the Congress-led UPA government for a hiking up, yet once again, the prices of petroleum products, both petrol and diesel.
Cross-sections of the society came out onto the streets and village bridle paths, towns and cities, villages and semi-urban centres, in their lakhs to condemn the central government's anti-people move. The series of rallies, marches, protest demonstrations, and conventions comprised one of the biggest mass mobilisations of the recent time in Bengal.
The masses were especially peeved that the central government had chosen to ignore the feasible and pro-people measures communicated to it by the Left in lieu of increasing the prices of petroleum products for the latter would put in place a cascading effects affecting adversely the daily lives and livelihoods of the people, increasing prices of commodities of common consumption across the board.
Elsewhere, state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty has declared that there would be no raising the fare structure of the public transport now. He assured that the transport services would be improved in the days to come and that a plan has been set in motion. Recently, the state transport department launched a fleet of low-floor European style large six-wheeler luxury buses with a luxurious interior, and, more attractive news for Kolkatans and visitors, very reasonable fare.
The entire state of Tripura was seething with protest demonstrations on February 15, 2008 through meetings and marches of hundreds of people organised by each and every unit of the CPI(M) against the nonchalantly anti-people step of the Congress-led UPA government at the centre having hiked the petroleum prices in utter disregard of its unbearably adverse impact on a remote landlocked state like Tripura. At places, the protest against this latest blow on the people was raised from the ongoing Left Front poll campaign programmes themselves.