(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Kerala's Congress party-led opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) yesterday staged a novel protest here against spiralling fuel prices.
Party leaders, including Dr Shashi Tharoor, M M Hassan, and Ramesh Chennithala travelled in a bullock cart to the Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the governor.
With the state imposing a value-added tax (VAT) of 34.06% and 1% road cess over the federal excise duty and dealer's commission, fuel prices in Kerala are among the highest in the country.
A litre of petrol that costs just Rs21.48 after freight, the margin of oil marketing companies and refining expenses is priced in the state at Rs78.61. Diesel costs Rs71.52.
The opposition also demanded that the state government forego the additional tax revenue from the hiked prices as they did while in power.
'When we were in power, the crude price was $135 a barrel, said former chief minister Oommen Chandy, who had reduced taxes twice when prices rose. Chandy is currently campaigning in Karnataka.
'It has now gone down to $75, almost half, but the market prices are skyrocketing, breaking all records and the government has increased the excise duty five-fold. We are being cheated.
Besides the 35.06% excise duty and road cess, around 42% of the federal earnings from the excise duty, additional excise duty and customs duty also goes to the state's coffers.
'We get around Rs60bn a year (as VAT on petrol and diesel). We cannot forego that, said T M Thomas Isaac, the state's finance minister.
'Else, let them bring petroleum products too under the goods and services tax (GST) regime and adequately compensate us.
The monthly utilisation of petroleum products also witnessed a 20 percent hike in Kerala, fuelled by increased use of power generators using petroleum as the fuel and private cars.
'When Chandy was the chief minister, we decided to reduce the VAT and forego the additional revenue of Rs6.19bn to reduce the burden on the common man. This government should also follow suit, said Chennithala.
'The increase in the cost of fuel is reflected in rising prices of essential commodities. (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and (Chief Minister) Pinarayi Vijayan are acting like two bullocks of the same cart in plundering people.
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