SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 1 August 2021, Sunday |

India’s PM Modi Faces Pushback From State Chiefs Over Proposed Law, High Fuel Prices

Opposition parties in India have been taking to the streets over a spike in fuel prices. From riding a bullock cart to cycling down an alley, these leaders have done it all. Their actions, however, have made no dent in the Modi government’s fuel price policy.

After suffering a defeat in three important state elections, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been facing strong opposition from regional parties, but this time over letters.

Newly elected Tamil Nadu State Chief M.K Stalin shot off a letter to Modi urging him to withdraw a proposed censorship law. The draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021 proposes giving more censorship power to the government, which can dismiss certification of a film.

“As you are aware, a vibrant democracy must provide adequate space for creative thinking and artistic freedom. However, the proposed amendment to the Cinematograph Act seeks to restrict it by restoring the revisionary powers of the Union Government that was struck down by the Supreme Court two decades ago”, the letter states. Stalin had earlier placed 25 demands before Modi in June, including granting citizenship to Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu.

Stalin’s letter comes a day after West Bengal State Chief Mamata Banerjee wrote to him, requesting a reduction in fuel prices. Banerjee, who is perhaps Modi’s biggest political nemesis, wrote: “Petrol prices were hiked 8 times since May, with 6 times in June alone. Shockingly, the retail price of petrol in many states across the county has crossed an unprecedented INR 100 ($1.30) per litre”.

Banerjee added that her state government has voluntarily given a “rebate to both petrol and diesel as a token of empathy for the common people”. She urged: “It is my earnest request that the taxes charged by the Centre on petrol and diesel are substantially reduced to give much-needed relief to people and check the overall inflation trend in the country”.

The rise in fuel prices has been burning a hole in people’s pockets, especially the middle-class population in India who are struggling to make ends meet amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Petrol prices breached an all-time high of INR 100 ($1.30) this year in 11 states across the country. Aside from petrol and diesel, cooking gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) saw a surge in price as well. India’s retail inflation rose to a six-month high of 6 percent in May.