Cong, INDIA question high fuel prices despite 'Russian bounty'
Statistics show that Russia has become India’s leading source of crude oil, accounting for about 40 per cent of the country's crude imports
India's retail inflation measured by the consumer price index (CPI) has seen a sharp spike to reach 7.44 per cent in July owing to a hike in food prices, as food inflation witnessed a massive jump of 11.51 per cent. And the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), which is all set to take on the BJP-led NDA, is leaving no stone unturned to target the government.
Amid soaring prices of vegetables and fruits and other essential commodities, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had on 1 August visited Azadpur Mandi in Delhi, one of Asia’s biggest wholesale markets of vegetables and fruits, and interacted with shopkeepers and labourers working there.
In the last few months, Gandhi has been leading India's grand old party in criticising the government over various issues, making surprise visits to meet people in and around the national capital and get a sense of ground realities.
On the other hand, the opposition grouping of INDIA, which will hold its third meeting in Mumbai for two days on 31 August and 1 September, has been targeting the government over the prices of petrol, diesel, and LPG cylinders, despite the "Russian bounty".
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, India’s refiners have been sourcing Russian oil at a considerable discount. In fact, Moscow has taken huge strides to become India’s leading source of crude oil, accounting for about 40 per cent of India's crude imports.
A Reuters report found that India's imports of Russian oil hit a record high of about 1.95 million barrels per day in May this year, outstripping purchases from Iraq and Saudi Arabia. For sanction-hit Russia, a discount to the world's third largest oil consumer and importer makes plenty of financial sense.
Speaking to IANS, Congress leader Manickam Tagore said, “The prices of diesel and petrol have already broken the back of the middle class and poor people.” He added that the increase in prices of petrol and diesel, which have been selling at "exorbitant rates" for the last few years, has led to an increase in the cost of essential commodities.
Tagore pointed out that the price of LPG cylinders, which used to sell at around Rs 400, has also skyrocketed to over Rs 1,000. Targeting the central government, the Congress Lok Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu’s Virudhu Nagar said it is not ready to listen to the voice of the people, who have been hurt most by inflation and the skyrocketing prices of essential commodities.
Tagore suggested to the government that the only way to bring down the cost of essential commodities is to reduce prices of petrol and diesel to 2014 levels.
Besides the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT), Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and other parties have also opened a front against the government over inflation.
The rise in retail and food inflation in July is huge in light of the fact that retail inflation in June was 4.87 per cent, while food inflation was 4.55 per cent. The July inflation has also breached, for the second time in recent months, the RBI's tolerance limit of 6 per cent.
The spike is mainly owing to an increase in prices of fruits and vegetables, cereals, pulses, milk products and even clothing and footwear, according to figures released by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation on 14 August. In July 2022, retail inflation was at 6.71 per cent and food inflation at 6.69 per cent.