Is fuel NDA government’s Robin Hood?
By Dr George Jacob
Kochi: Is fuel the Robin Hood of the governing NDA? An instrument to rob the ‘rich’ to help the poor, as admitted to by one of its Union Ministers?
It appears very much so.
One of the ministers recently inducted into the Central government, the bureaucrat-turned-Union Minister for Tourism, Alphons Kannanthanam, has foul-mouthed most audaciously and insensitively in his characteristic devil may care manner, in the ardency and enthusiasm of a newly inducted minister to condone the centre’s failure to check the prices of fuel that has been habitually going through the roof on a daily basis in recent times.
The minister justified the hike by contending that ‘Those who use vehicles are not poor, and that the revenue from fuel hike is being used for various welfare projects for the poor. According to him, the decision by the government to hike up fuel prices was a deliberate one, and that the additional revenue made available through the fuel price hike would help build houses and toilets for the poor, and to help construct projects like national highways. This comment by the minister had the trolling ‘industry’ in social media to go on overdrive.
To add salt to the gaping wound he caused by the first part of his atrocious comments, he persisted with his gibberish discourse by saying that those who own vehicles are not from financially weaker sections. ‘About 30 percent of Indians are starving. The Modi government gives high priority for their uplift’ he continued like a keyed up doll. The opposition in Kerala from where the minister hails was one of the first to pounce on him, terming his outlandish remarks ‘nonsense’, and rightfully so.
As his statements closely followed another one of a similar kind in terms of lack of responsibility and basic sense when he attempted to condone the ban on beef by advising foreigners visiting the state of Kerala and the nation to sate their ‘craving’ for beef by consuming the meat of vastly superior quality available in their native nations, and not to bank on the meat of inferior quality available in India and his home state. One must remember that he is the Union minister of Tourism, with a great deal of responsibility in terms of his actions and, more importantly his words.
His contention that ‘those who use vehicles are not poor’ managed to get under my skin for the simple reason that not everybody is born with a silver spoon in the mouth, and that citizens purchase vehicles and other luxuries with the money that they earn by turning their blood to sweat through hard work, despite the odds, which is exactly my case and surely would be many others’ too. Their possessions including the vehicles they use are truly what they earned and deserved to possess, by toiling for them. These hardworking people simply do not deserve to be punished for that through hiking up the price of fuel without which these vehicles wouldn’t ply!
The cost of fuel truly has gone through the roof. Ironically, the reduction of crude oil in international market does not reflect on the money Indians needs to shell out to buy fuel. The price of a liter of crude oil in India is 20.19 rupees, which is purchased by Indians for 71.48 rupees from the fuel outlet. The breakup of factors leading up to the huge leap by.51.29 rupees for every liter, reads as follows: cost of refining the crude oil- 6.03; margin of Oil Marketing companies- 3.31; Central Excise Duty- 21.48; Commission of dealers-Rs.3.23; Value Added tax levied by individual states -17.24.
These combine to hike up the cost of crude oil in the international market from 20.19 to 71.48 rupees by the time a ‘rich’ Indian decides to purchase a liter of fuel. Evidently, the major factor responsible for this leap is the Excise duty levied by the centre, which stands at a huge 21.48 rupees, which was a mere 9.07 rupees before the present NDA government led by Narendra Modi assumed power.
As for the minister’s contention that the money pocketed by the government’s kitty would be used for developmental intentions like building toilets and homes for the poor, and for building and maintaining roads, these are the purposes for which Indians are arm twisted to pay taxes of various hues with the Aadhaar card on their head. The card currently is the weapon considered with a great deal of fear, than the gun by an average Indian!
That is exactly why I paid 23,994 rupees as onetime road tax when I purchased Maruti’s Alto K10 VXi on October 9, 2016.By paying that kind of money, I expect to have roads of world standards to ride my new car on. It is absolutely unfair to ask me to shell out more money through bloated fuel prices to provide me with well laid out roads.
Apart from the road tax, commuters are required to pay considerable money as toll, collected by numerous toll plazas (read wayside looters) located all along Indian roads. For the fiscal ended March 2017, sale of domestic passenger vehicles alone were 3,046,727 units against 2,789,208 in the previous year. One can only imagine the large sum of money the government would have grown richer by, bleeding the owners of those vehicles in the name of ‘onetime road tax’.
The government might as well master the art of maintenance of roads and building new ones from that money, by no means menial. It is indeed the responsibility of the government to do so. That is exactly what Indians who voted this government to power expect out of it. As for homes and toilets for the poor, Indians are already paying taxes from the womb to the tomb- taxes of various shapes, sizes, and hues.
Lately Indians have been asked to pay up something called the GST, which are imposed on them in various isomeric forms viz: cGST,sGST,iGST, etc (something which even the Almighty is yet to come to terms with, or even understand-this, leaving alone those numerous clueless Chartered Accountants in this country! ), in addition to the painful process of milking through income tax, value added tax, and others, these taxes are paid by Indians for upliftment of fellow Indians, who deserve help to live with dignity and basic amenities in this nation.
Therefore, the Modi-led NDA government may please do away with the habit of hiking up fuel prices to create the legendary English outlaw of the 12th century that Robin Hood was, in the excuse of robbing the so-called’ rich’ to help the poor. That simply amounts to cheating and burglary, something which Indians did not place this government on the throne of governance for.
And, it is also advisable for ministers and those in high offices to master the delicate and responsible art of speaking sensibly, to save great deal of embarrassment to themselves and the ministry to which they belong!