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Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: Activists of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) today took to streets here as part of the party's three-day statewide protest against skyrocketing of fuel prices across the country.

Holding banners and shouting anti-Government slogans, hundreds of party activists, including women staged a demonstration followed by a protest meeting at Raj Bhawan Square here. Members of BJD's student, women and youth wings have joined the protest. A delegation of the party later submitted a memorandum to the Governor addressing to the President of India in this regard.

The activists alleged that the Centre is exploiting common people in the name of rise in fuel prices in the international market. They also alleged that the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre is only profiting private oil companies and exploiting the common people on the other hand, said a party activist.

BJD Vice-President Debi Prasad Mishra said, "The demand to control prices of petrol and diesel is for the interest of common people. The skyrocketing fuel prices will adversely affect all section of people, including middle class and poor. The Centre is not taking initiative to control the prices."

If the Centre cuts excise duty on petrol and diesel in all States, there will be a considerable decrease in the fuel prices. The BJP-led NDA Government, instead of cutting excise duty on petroleum products, is blaming Odisha, which in fact levies less tax as compared to other States.

-------Senior BJD leader and Finance Minister Sashi Bhusan Behera.

"There has been a sharp rise in the prices of petrol and diesel in the country. Despite considerable decrease in crude oil prices, the cost of petroleum products is continuously increasing by the day. The Petroleum Ministry is looting the people," said party vice-president and Rajya Sabha member Prasanna Acharya.

Besides, the three-day strike will cover all the 314 blocks of the State.

Reacting to BJD's protest, Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said, "Instead of staging protest, the State Government should take steps to reduce tax on petrol and diesel to ease the burden of consumers in Odisha. The Centre has already reduced tax on fuel in the past. Plans are afoot to reconsider for a tax reduction in the coming days. The State government is only shedding crocodile tears."

It may be mentioned here that while the BJD is demanding a cut in the excise duty on fuel prices by the Centre, the BJP has recommended the State government to reduce value added tax (VAT) on petroleum products.

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