The Left parties on Friday said the “callous decision” by the Manmohan Singh government to hike prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas will inflict a “cruel blow” on the people and demanded that it be scrapped immediately.

“This callous decision of the government has come at a time when the food inflation is around 17 per cent and the general inflation rate has reached double digits. India has the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of consumer price inflation in the world,” the Left parties said in a joint statement.

The signatories included CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, his CPI counterpart A.B. Bardhan, Debabrata Biswas (AIFB) and T.J. Chandrachoodan (RSP).

It said the decision was to deregulate the price of petrol and leave it to the market to determine it. Going by the Kirit Parikh report, the government would decontrol prices of all petroleum products. “This is going to prove disastrous for the economy and the country.”

Disputing the arguments of the government, the statement said the prices of petrol and diesel were increased by Rs. 3 a litre only three months ago and that international prices had not risen substantially in this period.

The government, it said, was not even prepared to rationalise the tax structure on petroleum products which was adding to the price of petrol and diesel in a large measure.

“It is a myth that such a step is being taken to protect the public sector companies from under-recoveries. The so-called under-recoveries are entirely based on notional prices calculated without any reference to the actual cost of production. In fact, the deregulation is only to help private companies who withdrew from the market because of the government price controls. Now they will be free to enter the market to make profits,” the parties said.

By deregulating petrol price, the government has opened the way for continuous increase in its price. By increasing the price of diesel and kerosene, the farmers and the poorer sections are going to be badly hit, while cooking gas price hike would further burden the middle classes.

Cascading effect

Condemning the steep rise, nine central trade unions demanded that it be withdrawn immediately. In a joint statement, the trade unions said the move would have a cascading effect on already high prices of food and other items. The trade unions, including the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the Hind Mazdoor Sangh (HMS) and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), appealed to their constituents to protest in a “fitting manner” by holding a joint demonstration.

They said the unions had decided to convene a national convention on July 15 where a decision would be taken on joint action.

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