New Delhi: Farmers’ organisations on Wednesday observed a pan India protest against increasing prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas (LPG) with people hitting the streets with their two and four-wheeler vehicles and empty gas cylinders.
The protesters said the steep rise in the prices of petrol and diesel coupled with massive Central taxes was making the pandemic- ravaged lives of ordinary citizens ‘miserable’.
Protests were also held at the borders of the national capital where agitating farmers are camping against three Central farm laws and legal guarantee of minimum support price since the past seven months.
Farmers camping at the Tikri Border took out a 2.5 kilometre-long march, raising slogans against the hike. Talking to NewsClick over phone, Baldev Singh from Bharatiya Kisan Union (Kadiyan), said: “Several farmers joined the road show in the morning at Tikri border to protest against the high fuel prices.” He said the “hidden message” behind this protest was to highlight that high fuel prices had made it “unaffordable” for farmers to drive their vehicles.
Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, BKU (Dakaunda), said high prices of essentials were affecting every section of the society, including workers, students and women among others.
“Since the start of the farmers’ agitation, we got huge support from these groups. Now, it is our responsibility to take up their matters and raise our voices to demand immediate relief,” he said from Singhu Border.
Another farmers’ leader Kulwant Singh Sandhu told NewsClick that the need to stage a countrywide protest arose from the fact that there was very little protest by main Opposition parties. “Demonstrations were staged today at many locations with huge participation, which also saw the joining in of workers and students groups. The programme also ensured that those who couldn’t come to Delhi borders can also join our agitation.”
Petrol - 97.70 per litre Diesel- 90.70 per litre Cooking Gas- 843.50 per cylinder
Protests in the state were observed across all 22 districts. In Rohtak, the political capital of the state, the protesters formed a chain of vehicles from Mansarovar Park to District Commissionerate and banged thalis to express their anguish.
Jagmati Sangwan, leader of All India Democratic Women’s Association, told NewsClick that inflation along with rampant joblessness had forced women to beg for essential commodities. “I have never seen such a plight of women, who have been wandering the streets, begging for rice and flour. When I talk to these women, I find that they no longer consumer pulses. They go for cheap options like potatoes. “
Sangwan said the “pandemic had resulted in indebtedness and people are so petrified of daily humiliation that some of them have even thought of taking their own lives. In midst of this, the government is distributing sub-standard flour and bajra. You see, the heat waves are going on and nobody consumes bajra in the season. So, this is like rubbing salt on wounds.”
Himachal Pradesh Petrol - Rs 95.86/litre Diesel- Rs 95.85/litre Cooking Gas- Rs 880 per cylinder
The hill state saw protests in Kullu, Kangra, Sirmaur, Solan and Una districts with people coming out in streets with empty cylinders and expressing their anguish against rising prices. The protesters said the revision in prices of diesel and petrol has been done 24 times ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office for the second time in 2019.
Gurvinder Singh, who led one such protest in Paonta Sahib in Sirmaur, told NewsClick that inflation caused by the hike in petrol and diesel prices should be seen along with the impact of the pandemic which has left millions jobless. The wholesale price index has reached 12.5%, highest in last 11 years.”
He said the prices of cooking oil have jumped to Rs 160 per litre. Even vegetable oil prices have zoomed from Rs 90 to Rs 130 per litre.
“I am being told by ration dealers that 50% people did not reach the fair price shops to buy their stock of mustard oil because it is priced at Rs 165 per litre there too,” he said, adding that “farmers are now finding it difficult to operate tractors in farms. Similarly, truckers and transporters too are feeling the heat. The government must reduce the price by decreasing its taxes. If we are not provided interim relief, we will be mobilising people in every village and gherao the offices of BJP legislators,” he added.
Rajasthan Petrol- Rs 107/litre Diesel -Rs 95/litre Cooking gas - 870 per cylinder
Widespread protests were held in Churu, Nagaur, Bikaner, Jaipur rural, Sriganganagar, Jhunjhanu, Karauli, Sawai Madhopur, Hanumangarh and Sikar, with people carrying empty cooking gas cylinders to the protest sites. The state is among the fewwhere the petrol prices have crossed the Rs 110/litre mark.
Pawan Duggal from Sriganganagar told NewsClick over phone that the people were now staring at a grave crisis of livelihood, with one sole question in mind :“How will we survive ?”
This is indeed a question which is perturbing every section of the society be it students, workers or women. I purchased my cylinder yesterday only at Rs 870. When you go to the petrol pump, you are made to pay Rs 110 per litre for petrol. Petrol and diesel are used for transportation of goods. So, the impact of the surge will be on everything,” he said.
Gujarat Petrol - 97.35/ litre Diesel- 96.48/litre Cooking Gas - 842 per litre
Farmers’ organisations protested in eight districts, including Rajkot, Aravali, Surat, Navsari, Sabarkantha, Bhavnagar, Dahod in the state. The protests were also organised in far flung areas where demonstrators raised slogans and displayed placards to show their anger.
Daya Bhai Gajera, President, All India Kisan Sabha Gujarat , said high prices of diesel and petrol were also increasing rural distress. The rains have not reached the state completely. So, the people are not getting jobs for sowing. The overall purchasing capacity has vanished. You noticed how badly state was affected from the pandemic”.
He said in industrial centres, too, there was no significant activity. “When we see this along with the ever increasing prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas, we find a unprecedented crisis never seen in the history.”
When asked about the argument of government supporters about prices in international market, he said:”We have a proverb in Gujarati which means a goat can be milked anytime. For Modi, petroleum products are like that goat only. Why don’t supporters of the government tell us the fact that the government is getting 60 paise per rupee through taxes. In short, workers who earned per day are laden with the burden and there is no relief!”
Samyukta Kisan Morcha, in a statement, said it received reports about protests being held in Uttarakhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Odisha, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.