Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: Holding Centre and State government accountable for rising petrol and diesel prices, the Odisha Congress workers on Monday observed a six-hour-long bandh from 7 AM to 1 PM and staged 'rail roko' agitation across the State demanding an immediate reduction in fuel rates.

Claiming that the state-wide shutdown by the Congress was a big success, Odisha Congress president Niranjan Patnaik said, "I would like to thank and extend my gratitude to those who have cooperated in making this bandh a successful one. On a personal note, I am against bandh calls as it affects the lives of common people and also has an impact on the country's economy. But the government at the Centre ruling for 7 years now, doesn't look keen to hear the pleas of the poor and the middle-class. They have reduced the corporate tax in the budget. In order to compensate that, they have raised the fuel prices."

The Congress chief said the Centre and the state government are imposing unreasonable taxes on petrol and diesel, which has led to a steep hike in fuel prices.

"The governments have no sympathy for the middle class. They should reduce tax on petrol and diesel to give some relief to the people. Fuel prices should be reduced by Rs 10 per litre," demanded the OPCC chief.

READ | Sporadic Violence Marks Odisha Bandh Over Fuel Price Hike

Meanwhile, the BJP criticised the 'fake agitation' by Congress launched citing public interests, and said the bandh call is just an attempt to bail itself out of the party's crippled situation in the State.

"Bandh-calls have become a trend nowadays. India imports most of the fuel required to meet the needs, the country's production is not even 5 per cent. The State government has a share of thousands of crores in the form of VAT, and this is a big source of revenue generation. Petroleum products are still to come under the ambit of GST. The day GST is implemented, fuel prices will come down by Rs 28-30," said Bishnu Sethi, deputy leader of BJP legislature party.

"The vote share of the Congress during elections gives a tell-tale sign that the party is losing its relevance in Odisha. The bandh call is only to divert the attention of the people. BJD indirectly supporting the bandh by closing the educational institutions, shows Odisha government's double standards," alleged BJP State General Secretary Lekhashree Samantsinghar, further stating that Naveen government should reduce VAT on petrol and diesel.

The ruling-BJD, on the other hand, has thrown ball into Centre's court stating that the BJP-led central government should find some solution to reduce the fuel prices.

State Transport Minister Padmanabha Behera said, "Increased fuel prices continue to burn a hole in consumers' pockets. Rise in fuel price will also lead to a spike in bus fare and prices of essential commodities. We hope the bandh by Congress will be heard by the Centre as people have expressed strong disapproval. The Centre should come up with a solution to reduce the problems of the consumers."