Petrol pump `curfew`: Congress says austerity necessary; BJP calls it economic emergency

The Petroleum Ministry`s proposal to do away with 24-hour petrol pumps in cities has not gone down well with the BJP and CPI.

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: The Petroleum Ministry`s proposal to do away with 24-hour petrol pumps in cities has not gone down well with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Communist Party of India (CPI).

Congress leader Jagdambika Pal on Monday defended Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily`s plan to shut petrol pumps in the night to taper fuel demand.

"(Lal Bahadur) Shastriji had said eat one meal a day for austerity measure. But now we are food secure," Pal said, adding "sometimes austerity is necessary".

But the BJP reacted sharply to Moily`s plan.

BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said doing this will only worsen the economic situation in the country. The former finance minister also said that present situation in the country can only be termed as economic emergency.

BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar called the UPA government confused, adding it does not know what to do to tackle the situation. If petrol pumps are closed at night, queues during the day will be longer, noted Javadekar.

Echoing almost similar sentiments, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta likened the proposal to a curfew. "We are heading towards economic emergency," said Dasgupta, suggesting that the government must get petrol from Iran.

Another CPI leader, D Raja, said the government has come up with such a proposal out of frustration. "The government is desperate, panicky because they have failed to manage economy," said Raja.

Samajwadi Party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agarwal discarded Moily`s plan, saying this is not how country`s economic situation can be improved.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut opined that Moily`s plan will lead to an increase in black marketing as consumption will continue to be the same.

A leading daily on Sunday had reported Moily as saying: "It (petrol pump timings) could be 8 am to 8 pm or something like that. We are still working on it. It may not be implemented on the highways though. Such measures are already in place in many other countries."

"We need to discipline ourselves. People will have to tighten their belt and some austerity measures have to be taken without affecting economic activity," Moily had added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked the Petroleum Ministry to save USD 25 billion on imports and the ministry hopes to contain fuel demand through such an austerity measure.

The Petroleum Minister had on Tuesday said the Oil Ministry has worked out a plan to save USD 22 billion in the oil import bill.

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