“People have a right to know the reasons for increasing fuel prices”

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Murli Manohar Joshi on Sunday charged the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government with favouring private players in the oil and natural gas sector and demanded a debate on the petroleum policy.

Addressing journalists here, Dr. Joshi said people had a right to know the reasons for increasing the prices of petroleum products. The irregularities highlighted in the media based on a leak of the draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) indicated that the petroleum exploration companies had been given a free run by the Centre.

Pointing out that the government had not denied the report, he said its leak amounted to breach of privilege as it had to be placed before Parliament first.

He sought to know why the CAG opted for special audit on the Krishna-Godavari production sharing contract, what forced this exercise and whether there was something suspicious about the project.

He said the gas allocation policy was “a farce” since it was based on a faulty price fixation policy. The present hike in the prices of diesel and cooking gas showed a “total surrender of the common man's interest to major private players.” The government had chosen to “subvert market mechanism and fix its own price to favour the producer.”

On whether the PAC would look into the market mechanism for price fixation of gas and diesel, he said in case of a consensus among the members, the committee would shoulder the responsibility.

He termed the statement of Union Minister Kapil Sibal on the CAG as breach of privilege and an attack on the constitutional mechanism.

Likening the present political situation to the ‘Emergency' period, Dr. Joshi said the United Progressive Alliance government proved it had scant respect for democracy by brutally crushing peaceful agitations. “The Union ministers have become arrogant,” he added.

Launching a scathing attack on Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Dr. Joshi said “when he [P. Chidambaram] was the Finance Minister, there were scams such as 2G spectrum allotment. After he became the Home Minister, there was a goof-up in the terrorist list made over to Pakistan. It is significant that his election has been termed ‘fraudulent' though the Election Commission will decide on the issue.”

Mr. Chidambaram had directed PAC members to oppose the report of the committee and the views against the Prime Minister. This had never happened in the country's history, he said.

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