Is Petrol More Important Than Life? Senior BJP MLA Justifies Fuel Price Hike

Bhubaneswar: Life is more important than petrol and diesel. The Centre-led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has earmarked Rs 35,000 crore for immunisation programmes. Such schemes cost the exchequer, so we need to decide whether the fuel is more important than life?, said BJP Legislature Party’s Deputy Leader Bishnu Sethi here today.

“PM Modi wants to build an Atmanirbhar Bharat. Abeer (colour powder used in Holi), crackers and rakhis will no longer come from China. The BJP Government at Centre intends to build robust infrastructure,” said Sethi.

“91 per cent of people in this country support Narendra Modi, as per a survey in Odisha. We all should support our Prime Minister in these Garib Kalyan Yojanas. Free doles were distributed during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included free rice and dal, where will that come from?” said Sethi when asked about the skyrocketing fuel prices in India.

He added, “Is anyone selling his or her house or land to pay for the expenses borne by the Government during the pandemic?” The tax collected on fuel is utilised by the Odisha Government for welfare activities in Odisha and across the country.

The Odisha Assembly on Tuesday expressed concern over the rising fuel price, while the state government said the funds collected through tax is utilised for welfare activities. Raising the issue of hike in fuel prices through an adjournment motion, the opposition asked the state government to reduce the tax on fuel to reduce the burden on the common man.

The opposition members said that the people of the state are hard hit by the price hikes of essential commodities.

Congress MLA Tara Prasad Bahinipati said the BJP government at the Centre is looting the people as the petrol price has breached Rs 100 mark in Malkangiri district for the first time. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, both the Centre and state government increased tax on petroleum products. The government needs to decrease the tax on fuel, said Bahinipati.

Opposition chief whip Mohan Majhi said like other states, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik should set an example by decreasing the Value Added Tax (VAT) on petroleum products. However, Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari said the government is levying less tax than the Central government and utilising funds for welfare activities.

Pujari said the Centre is collecting Rs 32.90 paise from fuel while the state government is levying Rs 21.40 paise towards 32 per cent VAT on prevailing price retail of petrol in Bhubaneswar. The prevailing price of petrol in Bhubaneswar stands Rs 91.66 (as on February 23), while the petrol prices in Bhopal, Mumbai and Kolkata are Rs 98.96, Rs 97.34 and Rs 91.12 respectively.

Similarly, the diesel price in Bhubaneswar is Rs 88.63, while the diesel prices in Bhopal, Mumbai and Chennai are Rs 89.60, 88.44 and 86.31 respectively, said the Minister. He said the Centre should reduce the agriculture infrastructure development cess and infrastructure cess on the petroleum products.

Earlier, three Congress MLAs reached Odisha Assembly by riding a bicycle as a mark of protest against the rise in the prices of petrol and diesel. Congress MLAs Taraprasad Bahinipati, Suresh Routray and Adhiraj Panigrahi took out the novel protest by riding cycles to the State Assembly.

(with inputs from IANS)

Bishnu Sethi, Senior BJP MLA

Niranjan Pujari, Minister, Finance, Odisha

Tara Prasad Bahinipati, Congress MLA