People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 37

September 16, 2012




Petro Price Hike: Gigantic Fraud


AS we go to press, two ominous developments are slated to take place.  This UPA-2 government is all set to impose yet another crushing burden on the majority of our people by hiking the prices of petroleum products once again.  We shall return to this later. 


The other development is the launch of the election campaign in the state of Gujarat by Narendra Modi.  He has embarked on a ‘rath yatra’.  While the rath has been modeled along the lines of Advani’s infamous ‘rath yatra’ that left a trail of death and mayhem leading to the eventual destruction of the Babri Masjid, Mr Advani himself was not present for this launch.  This is strange given the fact that Advani represents the constituency of Gujarat’s capital, Gandhi Nagar in the Lok Sabha.   However, this may not be so strange considering the surreal rat race in the BJP for the illusionary post of the future prime minister.  Not to be left behind, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray has jumped into the fray by proposing Sushma Swaraj as his preferred prime ministerial candidate.  Given the Shiv Sena’s strident anti-Bihari and North Indian campaign in Maharashtra, this could well be an effort to pre-empt the Bihar chief minister from entertaining any prime ministerial illusions. 


In what must be ranked as one of the worst expressions of hypocrisy and dishonesty, Narendra Modi launched his campaign by paying obeisance to Swami Vivekananda.  With blood of the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat on his hands, Mr Modi would have done better to have at least read some of

Swami Vivekananda’s writings.  He had famously once said, "If anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance; help, and not fight, assimilation and not destruction, harmony and peace and not dissension". 


Concluding his famous address to the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 at Chicago, Swami Vivekananda says, “Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful Earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.


"But their time has come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.”  Unfortunately, the time is yet to come even after a century.


Of course, the Gujarat electorate will decide whether such a time has indeed arrived for Narendra Modi.  In the meanwhile, the whipping up of communal polarization in many parts of the country by the RSS/BJP, as we have noted in this column in connection with the unfortunate and utterly condemnable violence in the Bodoland areas of Assam and its repercussions elsewhere, particularly in Karnataka (again a BJP-ruled state which is shortly going to the polls) appear to be the part of a by now familiar strategy of sharpening communal polarization for electoral benefit.  This, however, can happen only at the expense of loss of innocent lives and grievously damaging the unity and integrity of our country. 


By doing this, the BJP ends up acquiescing to the UPA government’s economic policies and the burdens that it relentlessly imposes on the people.  On such attacks on people’s livelihood as well as on a host of other neo-liberal economic policies, the Congress and the BJP find themselves on the same plane. 


It is, therefore, not surprising that the BJP has little to say about the impending rise in the prices of petroleum products.  The ministry of petroleum and natural gas has moved a cabinet note proposing various revisions in the prices of all fuel products.  Media reports suggest that the price of petrol could be hiked by as much as Rs 5 a litre.  The minister himself says, “However painful and difficult it may be to increase the price of oil products, an increase is unavoidable.”  The reason, we are told, is to ‘contain high fiscal deficit and burgeoning losses of oil companies’. 


Can anything be farther from the truth?  As we had shown in these columns in the past, the high fiscal deficit of 6.9 per cent of our GDP translates to nearly Rs 5.22 lakh crores.  On the other hand, in the same fiscal year, the government granted tax concessions to the corporates and the rich to the tune of Rs 5.28 lakh crores.  If this largesse was not given to those who are already rich, then there is no deficit at all.  Having given the rich such high levels of subsidies, this UPA-2 government is now imposing severe economic burdens on the majority of the people in the name of containing the fiscal deficit and thereby cutting whatever little subsidies are provided for the needy and poor.  


Are the oil companies really making a loss?  Let us examine facts.  The oil and natural gas giant, ONGC, declared a net profit of Rs 25,123 crores for the year 2011-12.  For the next quarter ending June 30, 2012, it has reported a further growth in profit of 48.4 per cent.  The IOC has reported a net profit of Rs 4,265.27 crores for 2011-12.  The Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) reported a net profit of Rs 911 crores.  Interestingly, for the last quarter of the fiscal, January-March 2012, its net profit increased by 312 per cent.  The Bharat Petroleum has reported a net profit of Rs 1,546.68 crores. 


In the face of these facts, where are the ‘burgeoning losses of oil marketing companies’?  A gigantic fraud is being committed on the Indian people.  Such imposition of severe economic burdens which will further worsen the already declining livelihood status of our people cannot be allowed. Widespread popular protests must force this UPA-2 government rollback such hikes in the prices. 

(September 12, 2012)