Bandh called by Oppn parties unjustified: Deora



New Delhi: Oil Minister Murli Deora today said the nation-wide strike called by Opposition to protest fuel price hike was unjustified as the price hike will have minimal impact on the comman man.

"This is nothing more than misleading the people, as these (Opposition) parties have been instrumental in notifying the deregulation of the prices of petroleum products and reducing subsidies in November, 1997, and in implementing the programme from April, 2002," Deora said here.

Meanwhile, top leaders of BJP-led NDA today chalked out the strategy for a nation-wide strike call tomorrow against the government's "failure" to control price rise.

"This may be the first time in history of India's politics that almost all political parties will participate in the Bharat Bandh," NDA Working Chairperson L K Advani said after a meeting of the leaders.

Deora said the Rs 3 per litre hike in kerosene price translates into an increased burden of only 50 paisa per day per family. The price increase of domestic LPG by Rs 35 per cylinder means an increase of less than Re 1 per day per family. The impact of the increase on the common man who uses LPG and kerosene as domestic fuels is negligible.

"Bandh call is not only unjustified, but also against the interest of the common man and poor people/daily wage earners who could be deprived of their wages, besides causing inconvenience to the public at large," he said.

Deora said the BJP-led NDA regime had raised kerosene rates three-fold and the Left-supported United Front government notified moving towards market-linked pricing of LPG and kerosene.

Rebutting Opposition criticism of the June 26 decision to raise petrol prices by Rs 3.50 a litre, diesel by Rs 2 per litre, LPG by Rs 35 per cylinder and kerosene by Rs 3 per litre, Deora said the government was "compelled" to raise fuel prices by the "bare minimum" to save public sector oil firms from a precarious financial situation.

"The NDA government raised price of PDS kerosene from Rs 2.52 per litre in January, 1998, to Rs 9 per litre in March, 2002. This hike was 258 per cent, even though crude oil prices rose by just 147 per cent during the period," he said.

The Congress-led UPA government, in contrast, did not increase kerosene prices for the past six years, despite the price of crude oil (raw material for making petrol, diesel, domestic LPG and kerosene) more than doubling from USD 36 a barrel in May, 2004, to USD 78.

"We raised kerosene rates by Rs 3 per litre against the required increase of Rs 18.07 per litre," he said. "We have ensured that the poor are not unnecessarily burdened." "We will continue to subsidise LPG and kerosene, which are the common man's cooking fuels. Even after last month's price increase, kerosene price is Rs 15.07 per litre below cost and LPG is under-priced by Rs 226.90 per cylinder," he said.

The United Front government, of which Left parties, the TDP and Samajwadi Party were constituents, had in November, 1997, notified full deregulation of prices of petrol, diesel, LPG and kerosene by 2002.

According to this schedule, the rates of kerosene and LPG should have been at least double the revised price of Rs 12.32 per litre and Rs 345.35 per cylinder respectively.

Deora said the NDA government had in April, 2002, freed petrol and diesel prices, leading to changes in rates every fortnight.

Referring to the statement of the Chief Economic Advisor to the government of India, the minister stated that the recent price increase in four petroleum products will have a marginal impact on the rate of inflation.

PTI