Alphons again: Says fuel price hike okay

Opposition slams Union minister's remarks, calls them atrocious

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KJ Alphons

Days after advising foreign tourists to eat beef in their country before coming to India, Union Minister of State for Tourism, KJ Alphons on Saturday drew flak from all corners for justifying the fuel price hike.

Speaking to the media at Thiruvananthapuram, Alphons said people who could afford vehicles should also pay the increased prices, adding that the government was imposing tax to improve the lives of the poor. "Who buys petrol?

Somebody who has a car or a bike. Certainly, he's not starving. Somebody who can afford to pay, has to pay," he said.

Calling it an atrocious statement, Congress leader and former petroleum minister Veerappa Moily said: "The bureaucrats who come in to politics have no understanding of people's problems," adding that several ministers in the Modi government were like this.

The former bureaucrat's comments come in the backdrop of soaring fuel prices, despite a crash in international crude prices over the last three years.

When asked about why the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had opposed the fuel price hike when the Congress was in power, Alphons said the government was using the money for the sake of the downtrodden, unlike the previous regime.

Fuel prices affect the prices of various other commodities in the market.

"The money is being used to ensure basic amenities, such as food, shelter, sanitation, and education, for the poor," the minister said, adding that the tax on petroleum products could come down, if it was brought under the ambit of Goods and Services Tax (GST). The states, however, were not ready to bring liquor and petroleum products under the GST, he said.

When asked about the increase in prices of essential commodities in the wake of fuel price hike, the minister said inflation rate in the country was less than half per cent, as prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

The basic cost of petrol after the refining is around R30 per litre, while its current retail price per litre is Rs 70. For diesel, the basic cost per litre is around Rs 30, while its current retail price per litre in Rs 58. 39.

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