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Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convey "every citizen's anguish and deep distress regarding the spiralling fuel and gas prices."

Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, Gandhi in the letter alleged that in distressing time, the central government is making a profit from people's misery and suffering.

She termed the rise in fuel prices as "short of extortion to cover up economic mismanagement" and urged the Prime Minister to follow 'Raj Dharma' and reduce fuel prices by partially rolling back excise duty.

"On one hand, India is witnessing systematic erosion of jobs, wages and household income. The middle class and those at the margins of our society are struggling. These challenges have been compounded by run-away inflation and an unprecedented rise in the price of almost all household items and essential commodities. Sadly, in these distressing times, the Government has chosen to profiteer off people's misery and suffering," she said.

She termed the rise in fuel prices as a "brazen act of profiteering".

"Fuel prices are at a historic and unsustainable high. In fact, petrol has breached the 100/litre mark in many parts of the country. The surging price of diesel has added to the escalating woes of millions of farmers. What baffles most citizens, is that these prices have been increased despite moderate prices of International crude oil. To put it in context, the crude oil price is nearly half of what it was during the UPA Government's tenure. Therefore, your government's act of raising prices (continuously for 12 days till February 20th) is little less than a brazen act of profiteering," she added.

Fuel prices have been rising over the past few weeks with the petrol price touching 90.19 per litre in Delhi on Sunday, while diesel rate crossed 80-mark.

The interim Congress chief said that she fails to understand how "any government can justify such thoughtless and insensitive measures directly at the cost of our people"

"Your Government has increased excise duty on Diesel by 820 per cent and on petrol by 258 per cent over and collected upwards of 21 lakh crore in the last six and a half years. This unaccounted-for windfall is yet to be passed to the people for whose benefit it was ostensibly collected," she said in the letter to Prime Minister.

"As I had expressed earlier, it was cruel on the Government's part to refuse to reduce fuel prices even when global crude oil had crashed to $20/barrel last year. The whole principle of deregulation and dynamic pricing is predicated on the principle that reductions in crude oil prices will proportionately benefit the end consumers. The fact that your government fails to do so implies a deliberate and conscious decision to deny the common man his legitimate due," she said.

She said that the central government has been unreasonably over-zealous in levying excessive excise duty on petrol and diesel, i.e., 33 on every litre of petrol and 32 on every litre of diesel, which is higher than the base price of these fuels.

"This is nothing short of extortion to cover up economic mismanagement. As the principal party in opposition, I urge upon you to follow 'Raj Dharma' and reduce fuel prices by partially rolling back excise duty," she said.

"The astronomical rise in domestic non-subsidised LPG gas cylinder to 769 in Delhi (and over RS 800 in many states like Uttar Pradesh) is even more cruel and has impacted every household. Can there be any justification for the Government increasing the price of a cylinder by 175 in two and a half months since December 2020?," she said.

Cornering the government, she said that the truth is that as GDP nose dives, the prices of gas, diesel and petrol continue to rise unchecked.

"What is equally distressing is that despite being in power for almost 7-years now, your government continues to blame previous regimes for its own economic mismanagement. To set the record straight, domestic crude oil production has fallen to an 18-year low in the year 2020," she said.

She urged the Prime Minister to roll back increases and "pass on the benefit to our middle and salaried class, our farmers and poor and our fellow citizens. It is they who are battling an unprecedented economic slowdown, widespread unemployment, wage reductions and job losses, high prices and erosion of income."

"I hope you will agree that it is time for your Government to focus on solutions instead of looking for excuses. India deserves better," she concluded. (ANI)

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