Left raises Red Flag against fuel price hike

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi, Jun 4 | Updated: Jun 6 2008, 04:11am hrs
Sounding the battle bugle against the Manmohan Singh governments decision to substantially hike fuel prices, Left parties on Wednesday announced a week-long nationwide agitation, demanding that it be revoked.

Keeping the motto, the Left would not be a party to the anti-people measures, members of Parliament belonging to the CPM, CPI and other Left parties walked out of a parliamentary consultative committee meeting of the petroleum ministry on Wednesday afternoon.

Distancing itself from the governments decision was also the RJD as well as the PMK, both partners in the UPA who had earlier in the day endorsed the decision in the CCPA meeting convened by the Prime Minister. The government should have looked for alternatives. More consultations should have been done. The decision will have political ramifications on those who are in the government. RJD MP Devender Prasad Yadav said.

The Left Front declared daylong hartals on Thursday in Kerala and West Bengal. Both VS Achuthanandan and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, the chief ministers and politburo members, in an attempt to reduce the burden, were quick to announce a cut in the sales tax on oil products in their states. At the central level, consultations are on with the UNPA for joint struggles against the governments move.

The Left parties had earlier termed the oil price rise suicidal. This onslaught on the people comes at a time when they are suffering from the steep price rise of all essential commodities. In the background of the failure of the government to tackle the rising rate of inflation, this hike in petroleum prices will further aggravate the inflationary situation, a statement signed by general secretaries of all the Left parties said.

The Left parties demand that the UPA government review the decision on the price hikes. It should cut excise duties more and impose windfall taxes on private companies, the parties added.

Left parties sources said it will redefine its relationship with the UPA. People know we have no role in the decision making process of the government. The oil price rise cannot be justified on any grounds. We will launch strong protests with the like-minded groups, including UNPA, a senior CPM leader said. CPI national secretary D Raja said the Left parties would meet soon and redefine its relation with the Centre.

The Left parties had given a set of alternative proposals which have been ignored by the government for the past three years. The only substantial step taken is the doing away of the 5% import duty on crude oil, the Left parties said adding that the private companies are reaping huge profits while the common people are burdened with huge price increases.

From the June 5 to 11, the Left parties will mobilise the people to conduct hartals, strikes, picketing, rail roko, rasta roko and demonstrations to register the peoples protest against this unjustified burden, the statement said.

In the parliamentary consultative panel meet held in the evening, the Left MPs demanded a discussion on the oil price hike, which was ruled out by petroleum minister Murli Deora. We protested the decision and walked out, CPM leader and MP S Ajayakumar told FE.