Special Correspondent

Protests against reinstatement of convicted employees

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy on Friday alleged that the LDF, which demanded sales tax sops on petroleum price hike while in the Opposition, was reluctant to part with similar concessions that would go a long way in reducing the burden of the latest hike in prices.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Chandy said his Government had promptly announced sales tax exemption when the prices of petrol and diesel had been hiked in September 2005. Unfortunately, the LDF Government continued to collect the additional sales tax consequent to the hike. His Government had given up sales tax of 70 paise on petrol and 42 paise on diesel, taking on an additional loss of Rs.180 crores. The LDF, which had now given the call for a general strike on June 13, had demanded that the Government should reduce the sales tax while in Opposition, but was now reluctant to do so while in power. "The people hoped for a decision in Wednesday's Cabinet. It is unfortunate that the additional tax should be collected from the people."

He said as per his calculations, the Government could forgo the tax of 87 paise for a litre of petrol and 40 paise for a litre of diesel if it were to rationalise the tax rates by offering concessions. This would mean that petrol would be available at Rs.49.15 a litre and diesel at Rs.35.49. Mr. Chandy opposed the Centre's decision to hike the prices of petrol and diesel in general, but wanted the LDF to offer sales tax sops in tune with its positions while in opposition.

Mr. Chandy also criticised the LDF Government for the delay in reaching relief to the flood-affected people. He said the Government had failed to provide even free ration to the victims, not to mention the compensation for the loss of life and property.

Mr. Chandy also strongly protested against the Government decision to reinstate seven Government employees who were dismissed from service after being sentenced for attacking a woman employee during a strike at the time of the Nayanar Government's tenure.