Twenty-one opposition parties led by the Congress held a nation-wide 'Bharat Bandh' to protest the soaring petrol and diesel prices on Monday. The parties claim that the government is stubbornly refusing to cut the high excise duty, which is adding to the crushing burden on consumers. Petrol and diesel prices scaled new all-time highs on Monday as the prices of the two fuels were jacked up by another 23 paise and 22 paise per litre, respectively.
The petrol price in Delhi has now shot up to Rs 80.73 per litre while diesel, too, touched a high historic high of Rs 72.83 a litre as oil prices in the international market continue to rise and the rupee weakens. Petrol in Mumbai scaled to Rs 88.12, up 23 paise, while diesel was priced at Rs 77.32, up 23 paise, on Monday. The Centre currently levies a total excise duty of Rs 19.48 per litre of petrol and Rs 15.33 per litre on diesel. VAT varies amongst states.
Rahul Gandhi, who led the Opposition protests from Rajghat, said: "Narendra Modi used to roam the country and say, the prices of fuel are rising. Today he is the Prime Minister and says nothing."
Slamming the Prime Minister, Rahul said that India's youth should know that the money Narendra Modi has given to his friend (Rafale deal) does not belong to him. "The Rs 45,000 crore belongs to the youth and farmers of the country," he said.
These fuel price figures were released by the BJP.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the Modi government has completely failed in keeping its promises to the people of India. The need of the hour is for different parties to set aside their differences and come together. "Time has come to change this government," said Singh.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who shared the dais with other Opposition leaders, said it is necessary to make the government understand that they have completely failed to serve the nation.
Apart from Delhi, various Opposition parties held protest marches across the country. Several incidents of vandalism were also reported. Protesters targeted buses and disrupted train traffic in parts of Maharashtra. Nearly 100 Congress leaders and workers were detained during the protest in Mumbai, police said. Train services were hit in Odisha during the 'Bharat bandh' call.
The BJP has accused the Opposition of indulging in vandalism to gain attention. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: "Everyone has a right to protest but what is happening today? Petrol pumps and buses being set ablaze, putting to risk lives. A child died after an ambulance was stuck in the protests in Bihar's Jehanabad. Who is responsible?" BJP President Amit Shah also met Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan to discuss the rising fuel price issue.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje announced a four-percent reduction in value-added tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel, which will reduce their prices by Rs 2.5 per litre in the state.
Meanwhile, the rupee dropped by around 94 paise to reach a record low of 72.67 to the dollar due to a strengthening dollar and a widened current account deficit.