Govt rules out excise duty cut on Petrol, Diesel amid nationwide protests

Bharat Bandh News Live Updates: The Congress on Monday demanded the Narendra Modi government cut the excise duty and customs duty on petrol and diesel after what it called was a successful Bharat Bandh from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the Centre can’t hide behind the excuse of “global reasons” for the high prices as it had increased taxes substantially in the last few years. He also thanked the 20 other opposition parties for joining the nationwide strike.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had earlier questioned Rahul Gandhi and Congress over the death of a minor girl in Bihar. A two-year-old girl died as the vehicle carrying her to Jehanabad civil hospital got stuck in road blockade by bandh supporters. Her parents said if they were allowed to move ahead, their daughter’s life could have been saved. Hitting at the Congress over the issue, Prasad said, “Atmosphere of fear is being created in the country. Who will take responsibility for the child’s death? Congress must give an answer.”

He said that the hike in prices of petroleum products was a “momentary difficulty” due to the international crisis, and condemned the incidents of violence during the Bharat Bandh. The Bharatiya Janata Party claimed that the shutdown was “unsuccessful” because people understand the reasons why petrol and diesel prices were going up.

“Why the people of India are indifferent to Bharat Bandh? They understand the rise in fuel prices, though temporary, is because of factors beyond the control of the Indian government and ordinary indian,” Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the media. He said that in spite of some “momentary difficulty”, the people don’t support the Bandh. “This is unnerving the Congress and other opposition parties. That is why they are resorting to violence. “Bharat Bandh has been unsuccessful. We condemn the violence being used to instil fear among citizens across the country.”

In the national capital, Congress president Rahul Gandhi lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government and said that only 15-20 people are benefiting under BJP’s regime. He accused the government of inciting hatred among countrymen. “PM has shown path to capitalists and entrepreneurs, but has led farmers, women and youth towards darkness,” Gandhi said. Earlier in the day, he visited Raj Ghat along with senior Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot and Ghulam Nabi Azad to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi before formally joining the protest.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also attacked PM Modi and called his government ‘despotic’. He asked a united Opposition to keep aside their differences and work together to fight the Bharatiya Janata Party government, which has ‘failed to fulfil promises’. “Public is tired and angry; farmers are upset; youth is disturbed. There are no jobs,” he said. Singh along with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi joined Congress president Rahul Gandhi at Ramlila Maidan as Opposition observes Bharat Bandh against rising fuel prices. Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) patron Sharad Yadav was also seen sharing stage with the senior Congress leaders.

Congress’ Gujarat in-charge and MP Rajeev Satav, GPCC president Amit Chavda and other leaders were detained while protesting during Bharat Bandh. Opposition party workers allegedly halted trains at various stations in West Bengal, while their attempts in Maharashtra were foiled by the police as they were chased away and services were resumed. People participating in nationwide shutdown in West Bengal went on a complete rampage. They climbed atop police vehicles and efforts by officers to curb them seemed to have failed. Tyres were burnt on roads, traffic was blocked, people carried motorcycles on shoulder and some travelled on carts to register their protest, while causing inconvenience to commuters.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers in Mumbai’s Chembur garlanded donkeys during protest. Congress activists in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain allegedly vandalised a petrol pump and forced shops to close.The party workers in Bihar were seen protesting with gas cylinders on their heads and wearing a host of messages round their neck that conveyed people’s sentiments towards the ‘false promise of acche din’ by the Modi government.

In West Bengal Durgapur, five Congress and Left workers were detained today after they tried to stop Agniveena Express, even as the West Bengal government is making all efforts to not let the the protests affect essential services in the state. The Mamata Banerjee government has deployed 1,500 policemen in the state and 500 extra buses are plying on the roads. The government, in fact, has issued a circular saying that government workers’ one day salary will be deducted if they fail to turn up at their respective offices.

As of now, Bihar seems to be the worst affected with bandh supporters stopping trains, blocking traffic on almost all key highways and Mahatma Gandhi Setu in northern part of the state.

Schools and colleges in several districts of the country are likely to remain closed today in view of the Bharat Bandh called by the Indian National Congress with support from other opposition parties. As the political outfits unite to protest against the Modi government over rising fuel prices, the cost of petrol rose to 80.73 per litre in Delhi, continuing to burn a hole in the common man’s pocket. While petrol price was hiked by Rs 0.23, cost of diesel was Rs 72.83 per litre on Monday.

Karnataka, ruled by the Congress-JD(S), is likely to be most affected with buses staying off the road. Top opposition leaders like Sharad Pawar in Maharashtra, MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu and Left leaders have openly extended their support to the Bharat Bandh. Among opposition parties, the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal has decided to stay away from the Bharat Bandh but expressed support on the issues.

The Indian National Congress has appealed to party workers to maintain peace and not to associate with any violent protests. The party has demanded that petrol and diesel be brought under GST, which could lead to Rs 15 to Rs 18 drop in fuel prices.

“I appeal all Congress workers to make the bandh violence-free. We are Mahatma Gandhi’s party and we should not associate ourselves with any violence,” Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken said at a media briefing. Petrol and diesel prices set new records Sunday. According to the price notification issued by state fuel retailers, petrol price was raised by Rs 12 paise a litre and diesel by Rs 10 paise per litre on Sunday.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that the Narendra Modi government has “looted” Rs 11 lakh crore from the people of the country in the last 52 months and was running a “profiteering company” rather than a government. The way gas, diesel and petrol prices are increasing every day, it has caused great distress to farmers, he said.

“We demand that petrol and diesel be brought under the ambit of the GST. High prices of petrol and diesel found no mention in the BJP’s national executive meeting because they are not bothered about the pain of public,” Surjewala said.

He also urged people to bring about a change in the country by ousting the BJP from power.

Earlier, Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken said 21 opposition parties are supporting the Bharat bandh, besides a number of chambers of commerce and traders’ associations. “DMK will extend complete support to the Bharat Bandh call by the Indian National Congress protesting against the BJP government for steep rise in prices of petrol and diesel. I urge the people and party cadre to make the bandh on September 10 a big success,” Stalin has said.

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