S V Singh //
‘The Truth’ had carried first report on this burning topic in August issue. Seven months’ is too long a period during these dark times. Lot of water and human lives have flown down the Dhauliganga and Alakananda rivers in Chamoli District in Uttarakhand, a huge turnover of tractors and farmers has taken place at Delhi borders and the most anti people and insensitive Modi government has pocketed another Rs.1.4 lakh crore as tax on diesel, petrol and gas price hike, since then. The brazen government loot on hapless people goes on unabated. Behind the sign board of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas’, the mission statement of this fascist government seems to be, ‘Amiron kaa Vikaas Garibon ka Vinaash’ (affluence of the rich and pauperization of the poor). In August 2020, petrol was selling @₹80.43 per liter, Diesel @₹73.56 per liter and domestic gas @ ₹681.50 per cylinder in Delhi. These essential commodities are, as on March 1st 2021 selling; diesel @₹81.47, petrol @₹91.17 per liter and cooking gas @₹819 per cylinder. Petrol price has scored century in several states. During the month of February alone prices of diesel-petrol are hiked for 13 days continuously. During the month February, prices of cooking gas are hiked 4 times, by a whopping ₹125 per cylinder, ₹25 on Feb 04, ₹50 on Feb 15, ₹25 on Feb 25 & ₹25 on March 1. The toiling people are already undergoing excruciating painful situation because of the highest ever level of unemployment, over 14 crore people have lost their jobs, unprecedented price rise and rout of small businesses. They are being fleeced to the marrow of their bones by increasing fuel and gas prices on daily basis. Real, frightening, ugly face of the present fascist regime, claiming itself nationalistic, is out in the open!! Their apathy towards sufferings of the poor in order to prove their credentials to their corporate masters, has no limits. Even after that, Modi government is brimming with confidence that they can continue hoodwinking the suffering masses till eternity by a toolkit of ‘ultra- nationalistic frenzy, rabidly communal propaganda at deafening pitch & bought out media’.
How Fuel Prices Impact The Poor
First, diesel price hike has a direct cascading effect on prices across the board. Transportation cost, which is quite substantial in this vast country, increases instantly, leading to spiraling of prices. Whatever was left in the plate of the poor to keep breathing, is vanishing one by one. Fruits, vegetables and pulses have already become luxury items, only a few can afford. Hike in diesel prices aggravates hunger and perpetuate pauperization of the toiling people on a vast scale. Destitute people are drowned in unbearable pain and hopelessness as never before. Darkness is getting thicker by each passing day.
Second, Bus, train fares go up, compulsorily. Gone are the days when increase in fares used to be announced. These are, now a days, increased so frequently, as a matter of routine that it’s difficult to keep track. On Feb 26, 2021, Modi government has launched cruel attack on the poor, Corona battered people, by increasing train fare of sleeper and general coaches for short distance travel by as much as 300%. Who, other than a fascist government can think of such a steep fare hike? Otherwise also, the R & D department of the Indian Railways always keeps bringing innovative ideas to empty passenger’s pockets even without increasing the fare as such. Let’s see how it went since 2014. Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) has revealed in response to an RTI query that during a period of just 3 years between 01.01.2017 to 31.01.2020, Indian railways have squeezed an amount of ₹4335 crore from 9.5 crore waitlisted passengers and ₹4684 from those having confirm tickets by way of ticket cancellation charges alone. What is this, if not a daylight robbery? This loot has reached a stage when, just like air travel, passenger gets hardly any refund after cancellation of tickets. During this period, total 219 crore train tickets were purchased, such is the volume of train travelling. An amount of ₹25000 crore was snatched from the poor railway travelers by Indian railways by bringing changes in tatkal system of reservation during 4 years from 2015 to 2019. Entire system is being transformed in a way that no one can purchase general ticket, everyone has to book in advance leaving no room to purchase general ticket in case of emergency even. This is done with a sinister motive to squeeze maximum amount by cancellation of ticket. Railway ministry behaves like a thug. All the state governments are increasing bus fares exorbitantly, frequently and the excuse given every time is increased diesel price. Train and bus travelling have gone beyond reach of about half of the population.
Third, with every increase in diesel price even if by one paisa, the ‘normal-natural’ process of de-peasantization of marginal, small farmers gets accelerated. Farming cannot be done now by the old ox-driven ploughs or irrigation by ox driven rahats. Those days are now over. As happens with every small producer, any increase in input cost makes the small enterprise unviable, more so in case of marginal and small farmers who cannot afford costly agricultural equipment and have to hire these on rent. Higher diesel price pushes agriculture input costs up, marginal farmers go out of farming, crowd at the labor chawks and jhuggi bastis in towns increases and the vicious cycle goes on. As per government statistics, total consumption of diesel in agriculture sector during the year 2019-20 was 13.25 billion (1325 crore) liters. Diesel was costing @₹55.49 per liter when Modi became PM. It is costing ₹81.47 per liter in Delhi now which means the farmers are made to pay an amount of about ₹2,40,964 crore extra on diesel cost alone by the very government which they supported hysterically in every election till date before they, finally, got awake!!
Fourth, government loot by increasing price of LPG cylinders is more brazen and ruthless than even diesel and petrol. It is pinching the common people across the board really hard. Gas cylinder which was costing ₹220 in 2014 is now costing ₹819 in Delhi!! The Ujjwala Yojna to ‘liberate women from smoke’ by providing free gas to the poor launched with characteristic Modi rodomontade and drum beating is lying flat on the ground and the cheer leaders are not feeling even a slightly ashamed. Only 3% of the beneficiaries are in a position to afford refilling of gas, rest are using the cylinder as a toy for their children!! Thousands of connections get disconnected every month for not being able to refill for 6 months continuously. Increasing gas prices have ruined the consumption budgets even that of middle class, not to talk of the poor.
Fifth, Affording, even a two- wheeler is getting out of the reach of majority of the population and it is reflecting in the dip of sale of automobile industry. Federation of Automobile Dealer Association (FADA) have collected data of vehicle registration from 1273 out of total 1480 Regional Transport Offices from across the country and the truth spills out.
|Vehicle Category||Units Registered||Units Registered||Change %|
|.||Jan 2020||Jan 2021||.|
|Commercial Vehicle Sale||74,439||55,835||-24.99|
Southward movement of sale in automobile sector, always, has a serious cascading impact on unemployment as this sector is one of the top job providers. Most of the MSMEs are subsidiaries of major vehicle manufacturing companies. Recession in automobile sector is reflected on the health of industrial workers instantly particularly in the cities of Faridabad and Gurgaon. Lakhs of auto drivers too are finding the going really tuff.
Sixth, a lot many youths are surviving somehow by working as delivery boys for the home delivery services companies like Amazon, Zomato, Swiggy etc. Working already on a razor thin margin, their plight gets aggravated simultaneously with any increase in petrol, diesel price. Their bikes are replaced by bicycles resulting in less output and less salary and more stress. More and more such appalling stories are appearing in media these days.
We Are Paying The Highest Tax On Fuel In The World
Oil-gas prices are not linked to the price of crude oil in the international market. Prices keep rising as the tax component keeps increasing. Both state and union governments are competing with each other in squeezing any amount of tax from the hapless masses. Modi government is vehemently opposing any move to bring diesel, petrol under their favorite GST regime as the maximum slab of tax there is 28% whereas government is taxing the people @ 66% on purchase of diesel, petrol and LPG gas. Tax component in diesel petrol prices confirms that present NDA government has made over ₹19 lakh crore during less than 7 years of its rule by taxing people for diesel and petrol alone.
Please see, how this government loot goes on:
Details of Prices of Petrol and Diesel In Delhi as on 01.03.21
|Item||Petrol ₹||Diesel ₹|
|Central Govt Excise Duty||32.90||31.80|
|State Govt VAT||20.61||11.68|
The cost comparison of these fuel products with even our neighboring countries uncovers the real face of Modi government. How ruthlessly are they fleecing the people they claim to care!!
Even our small neighbors have some sensitivity and concern for their people during these testing times. They have reduced the diesel, petrol prices at least marginally.
Comparison of Petrol, Diesel Prices As On 01.03.2021
|Country||Petrol (₹)||Petrol (₹)||Diesel (₹)||Diesel (₹)|
|.||April 2014||1st Mar 2021||April 2014||1st Mar 2021|
This is how a ‘nationalist government’ works!!
As per India Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISLFTA) -1993, India exports Petroleum products and other items to Sri Lanka at duty free basis. As per information provided under RTI Act 2005, Government of India is exporting refined petrol to 15 countries at Rs. 34.00 while refined diesel is exported to 29 countries at Rs.37.00 per litre. So, government of Sri Lanka is purchasing petrol @Rs.34.00 and diesel @37.00 per litre even than it is selling petrol @74.92 per liter!!
What To Do?
Agitate, agitate, agitate!! No other option is available. People are devastated by the deadly pandemic, half of the youth are without job, price rise across the board is at unprecedented levels and small businesses have drowned. Had there been a minimum sensitivity or empathy for the destitute masses, Modi government would have given some relief for the lowest strata of our society. What we are witnessing is exactly the opposite. Subsidy to the poor is not acceptable as it ruins the nation whereas subsidy to the corporate sharks is welcome, it is to be increased as it prospers the nation!!! Every government since 1947 has served interests of the bourgeoisie because that is what they are there, but the degree of nakedness, brazenness to which the present government has stooped to serve their corporate masters is unprecedented. There is no confusion in any living body’s mind that Modi government is pursuing only one principle, keep tightening the screw of the poor as long as they endure the pain and test of endurance is, till the time they do not rise in revolt. Those who think that as the government’s real character is getting exposed day by day, they will run out of jumlas and will change their course, are grossly mistaken. What to say of Nehru, they can even hold Babur or Alauddin Khilji responsible for increasing the fuel and gas prices in 2021!! For any anti people measure, someone else is responsible!! Prices are rising because of winter season and these will moderate as the spring sets in!! Modi government is so sure, they can get away by dishing out any non- sense. They are so assured of the stupidity of the masses. They dream, they can keep befooling them till eternity. Fascists are handed over the rein of the nation by the monopoly capital not without reason. It is now the toiling mass’s turn to prove them wrong. There is one and only method to do that, refuse stubbornly to fall victim to any jumla, shun the toolkit of jingoism, communalism and fanaticism, organize nationwide and launch a genuine massive, militant protest till this brazen loot is stopped, prices are rolled back.
Modi government has increased tax on diesel, petrol and gas from the level of 31% in 2014 to 66% and reduced corporate tax from 34% in 2014 to 22% now. This confirms their class character without any ambiguity. This is how they care the poor!! The challenge before the masses is to force this government by massive nationwide mass movements to reverse the process. MAKE DIESEL, PETROL, GAS TAX FREE AND RAISE CORPORATE TAX TO 66%.
Bourgeois opposition have abandoned the opposition space available to them even in bourgeois sense. They are equally guilty and cannot escape responsibility. No meaningful protest movement against this atrocious increase in fuel-gas prices is witnessed anywhere in country. Riding a bicycle to state assembly as a protest and making the security and news starved media photographers run along, is a disgustingly vulgar spectacle. Similarly, announcing in a press conference that Modi government should take back Modi Tax from fuel and gas prices is nothing but a cruel photo session, mockery of a protest. Opposition’s dilemma is that they wish to be seen opposing the antipeople policies of the state and simultaneously, they wish to assure the ruling monopoly capitalist class that do not mistake that we are against all this exploitation juggernaut, begging for an opportunity to serve them better. Blood thirsty and profit hungry monopoly sharks are, however, not convinced. Modi is the best choice for them till now as the systemic crisis is fatal. Any let up on their part will sweep this whole system of exploitation away once and for all, they know. Days when such gimmicks used to work are, therefore, over. Bourgeois opposition need not be reminded, they know the reality. Their goal is best served to somehow remain relevant, that’s all. During these hard, dark times, protest, actually, means forcing the government to roll back anti people policies, we are protesting against, be it inhuman price rise in diesel, petrol and gas prices or anything else. Expecting that from this lame duck, de-motivated opposition is fooling oneself. Farmers are setting an example for the future movements in this country. Over 230 farmers have lost their lives, 95 days have passed since they are camping at Delhi borders, braving hostile weather and threats of brutal repression but they refuse to succumb. Salute to them.
History, though, has never been kind to the doom forecasters. Everything is not lost. There is significant revolutionary energy available in this vast nation, though, scattered, unorganized, uncoordinated, somewhat subdued but enough to spark the pent-up accumulated anger of the proletariat, even in this thick darkness. History also teaches us that the fire triggered by spark generated by fuel price hike protests have burnt down to ashes several brutal, tyrannic regimes the world over. Suharto, the hated, brutal, bloody mass murderer of lakhs of communists, progressive intelligentsia and trade union activists went down the drain as a result of heroic movement against fuel price hike spearheaded by brave students of Indonesia. Who can forget the Saffron Revolution in our eastern neighbor Myanmar in 2007 when entire nation rose in protests and brutal military junta regime came crashing down. Another similar movement, red not saffron, this time, is due there. Occupy Nigeria movement, against sharp hike in petroleum products, that was so appropriately described, “tooth pulled out without a plier” by Feyi Fawehinmi. State is out to remove entire jaw by a hammer in our country!! That fundoo, Ayatullah Khomeienie was brought to his knees quite literally in 2019 historic protests by the brave Iranians that forced fuel, gasoline prices roll back. Latin American land has a glorious history of high voltage protests where protesters move out of their houses en mass at the first act of injustice and never return empty handed. “It’s not 30 pesos it’s 30 years”, Chileans forced their dictatorial government not only to roll back fuel price hike but the entire neo liberal policies of last 30 years to some extent in 2019-20. During the same time, protesters on similar demands stormed the national assembly of Ecuador and President Lenin Moreno, tail in his legs, fled the capital by declaring emergency. Who can forget the iconic protest movements, ‘Yellow Vests’ and Jilet Jaunes’ led by youth of France which began in Nov 2018 and are still continuing gloriously.
Things are not going to remain same in our country as well, as that would be defying the scientific course of human development known as historic materialism. Objective material conditions and rising state repression are definitely going to force the revolutionary forces to coordinate and launch a massive joint protest movement at national level at not too distant a future, uniting all the burning issues which are all interconnected with a pointed focus on uprooting the present capitalist-imperialist-fascist order which has turned absolutely inhuman, lock stock and barrel. In case a revolutionary organization leadership refuses to respond to the historic call of united movement, there may be spectacle of their own cadre storming their party headquarters. Fire of the mass anger is slowly but certainly reaching a point when all obstacles on the path of joint resistance movement will become intolerable and will have to be thrown away. This is a likely scenario of the foreseeable future. No option is available within four walls of the capitalist order. There cannot be two opinions that the resistance movement has to be coordinated nation-wide and directed to the basic root of the problem genesis. Need of having a united resistance front of all revolutionary forces cannot be over emphasized. Youths of the nation are displaying their heroic determination, proving their credentials, refusing to be scared by brutalities or any tyrannic posturing of the state and are raring to go, rising to the occasion.
Unleash Nationwide Massive Coordinated United Revolutionary Protest Movements Against Atrocious Price Hike In Diesel, Petrol & Gas Prices!
Force The Government To Roll Back Fuel-Gas Price Hike!
[Originally published in The Truth: Platform for Radical Voices of The Working Class (Issue 11 / March 2021)]