Tamil Nadu

Centre making profit via fuel price: Chidambaram

Price flare up: Former Union Minister P. Chidambaram leading a protest by Congress in Karaikudi on Friday against the rise in fuel prices.   | Photo Credit: HANDOUT_E_MAIL

The former Union Minister and senior Congress leader, P. Chidambaram, on Friday flayed the Centre for levying exorbitant taxes on fuel to fill its coffers at the cost of the common man.

Talking to reporters after taking part in a protest in Karaikudi against the rising prices of fuel, Mr. Chidambaram said the cost, including commission for petrol outlet operators, worked out to ₹40 a litre, whereas the retail price was close to ₹100. The rising prices of fuel had a cascading effect on all essential goods due to additional transportation charges.

Making a comparison of fuel price with respect to international crude oil price, Mr. Chidambaram said given the lower cost of international crude oil now, petrol should be sold at ₹55 a litre. By imposing higher cess on petroleum goods, the Centre was depriving the States of their rightful share in revenue.

Cess was imposed with a specific purpose such as development of agricultural sector, education or library facilities. “But, now there is no such specific purpose. The Centre is using the funds to spend as per its whims and fancies,” the former Union Finance Minister alleged.

Finding fault with the wrong fuel taxation policy of the Narendra Modi Ministry, Mr. Chidambaram said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government wanted to bring fuel under the GST, but the States did not agree to it.

The Centre should bring down the cess, and he hoped that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government in Tamil Nadu would announce reduction in its tax on fuel as promised in its election manifesto.

The wrong economic policy of the Centre had pushed over 23 crore lower middle class people below the poverty line, whereas the previous UPA government had lifted 27 crore people above the poverty line, he said.

Vaccine shortage

Shortage of COVID-19 vaccines would not be solved as the BJP government at the Centre did not know how to plan, Mr. Chidambaram said. Even if 5 crore people were given double doses till date, India required 175 crore doses to vaccinate all eligible people by December 2021 as promised by the Centre.

“Assuming that the two local vaccine production companies have a capacity to produce 10 crore doses a month, they can produce only 60 crore doses and we will face a shortage of over 110 crore doses,” Mr. Chidambaram said.

While the developed countries like the U.S. and Japan had placed orders for vaccines in May 2020, the first order by the Centre was given only in Janaury 2021 and that too for only 1.11 crore doses as against the requirement of 180 crore doses. The Union Government made advance payment only on April 20, 2021,” he said.

With such a huge delay in booking orders and making advance payment, how could the Centre make vaccines in June, he wondered.

The Centre had not yet given emergency use approval (EUA) for any other vaccine except for Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V.

“Without giving EUA, the Centre is only peddling white lies that India will soon get foreign vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson,” he said.

Pointing to the announcement that orders had been placed for 44 crore doses to be delivered from July to December 2021, Mr. Chidambaram questioned where the remaining doses would come from.

‘Missing Minister’

The Modi government should come out with details of the way out, how the remaining doses of vaccines would be procured and which company would supply them.

“However, there is no answer for all these questions. The Union Health Minister (Harsh Vardhan), who had been repeatedly claiming that there was no shortage of vaccines all these days, has gone missing for the last 10 days. I don’t know whether he is still in the Cabinet or not,” he said.

Stating that 36 districts in Tamil Nadu had run out of stocks of vaccines, he wondered what kind of vaccination plan it was. The Modi government was betraying the people of Tamil Nadu.

Asked for an alternative to manage the crisis, Mr. Chidambaram felt that only a change of guard could save the people.

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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 6:58:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/centre-trying-to-profit-via-fuel-price-says-chidambaram/article34793145.ece

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