Hyderabad: Transport workers will shut operations across the country on December 7 to observe a protest day against the increased fuel prices and in support of the ongoing farmers’ agitation against the new farm laws and the proposed electricity bill. All India Coordination Committee of Road Transport Workers’ Organisations (AICCORTWO), an umbrella platform of transport workers, has called truckers, transporters, taxi and auto drivers to join the protest.
The workers’ unions are demanding the government to roll back the hike in fuel prices and restore the prices as on March 1, 2020.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, oil manufacturing companies hiked the petrol and diesel prices for the fourth consecutive day in this month.
The fuel prices have been hiked for more than 30 times in the last six months despite fall in Brent crude oil prices during the period.
Reportedly, crude oil price on Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) is around USD 47 a barrel. It has remained over average USD 44 in November.
In May 2014, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Centre, the prices of petrol and diesel in Delhi were at Rs 47.12 per litre and Rs 44.98 per litre respectively, while the price of crude oil averaged at USD 106.85 per barrel.
On November 30, AICCORTWO submitted a representation to Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister of Petroleum and Gas, requesting the government to stop the auto fuel price increase forthwith and restore the prices as of March 1, 2020.
“It is submitted that the Transport industry was in crisis prior to COVID-19. The pandemic has added fuel to the crisis. The petty owner cum drivers of all modes of transport vehicles are suffering a lot and are not able to meet even the expenditure. Even though the economy has opened, the transport has not yet picked up. The private finance companies are forcing the drivers for payment of vehicle loan instalments. On some Highways, the toll charges are enhanced during the COVID period. Other expenses have also shot up. The impact of the increase in petroleum products will have cascading effect on all the essential commodities and
the people are burdened heavily,” stated the unions.
Observers have criticised the central government for increasing the fuel prices despite massive fall in crude prices. When the pandemic hit, in April, the crude oil price crashed to below USD 20 per barrel. Then prices remained around USD 40 per barrel for several months.
However, the government continued to rely on revenue by taxing petroleum products amid protests and inflammatory implications for the economy. Reportedly, the government is currently examining the option of increasing another Rs 3-6 per litre excise duty on petrol and diesel products.
Meanwhile, the All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) has warned that the transport workers would shut operations in North India from December 8 if the BJP-led central government did not accede to the farmers’ demand to repeal the three controversial farm laws. Farmers are protesting in several states across the country, especially around Delhi borders where mainly Punjab and Haryana farmers have gathered, against the “anti-farmer” laws. They are also protesting against the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020.
“The agricultural laws passed by the Parliament are not only harmful to farmers but the entire people will face severe food security related problems. The privatisation of electricity will lead to the heaviest burden on the consumers. In essence, the farmers agitation is not for the benefit of the farmers alone. They are fighting for the people and the nation as a whole,” said K K Divakaran, General Secretary of All India Road Transport Workers’ Federation.
Transport workers have been raising their voice amid looming crisis in the industry, which has been deepened by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year saw massive protests by the transport workers who led isolated and joint protests across the country against the Narendra Modi-led government’s policies.