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Verbal clash in Lok Sabha over LPG price hike

PTI | New Delhi |

The Lok Sabha on Friday witnessed a verbal clash after the opposition members accused the government of burdening the poor by hiking prices of oil products, especially non-subsidised cooking gas cylinders.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar, while responding to the issue raised by Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge, accused him of "misleading" the House.

Terming the increase of Rs.86 for each non-subsidised LPG cylinder as a "small hike", he said only 1.1 crore people, out of the total of 91.7 crore people having LPG connections, will pay the increased price and the poor were not affected by it.

Members of the Congress and the Trinamool Congress later staged a walk-out, protesting the government's stand.

Raising the issue during the Zero Hour, Kharge said the hike of Rs 86 in the non-subsidised cylinders on March 1 was the highest ever.

He said Modi government's tenure has been marked by a rise in prices of essential items.

"Its price in 2016 was Rs 467 and it has been hiked by six times since. It is Rs 737 today. It goes on to show how much burden this government is putting on the poor. The Modi government claims having given facilities to the poor but statistics tell a different picture," he said.

In 2012, the crude oil price in the international market was USD 122 per barrel and the LPG cylinder sold at Rs 345 while petrol and diesel cost Rs 58 and 37, respectively, Kharge said.

In 2016, when the crude oil price was $33, an LPG cylinder cost Rs 513 and petrol and diesel Rs 56 and Rs 46, respectively, he said.

N K Premachandran (RSP) said the hike of Rs 271 for an LPG cylinder was "unheard of" and accused the government of not passing on the benefits of the fall in international oil price to the consumers.

Some other opposition members supported them.

K C Venugopal (Cong) said the government had cheated over 1 crore people who had reportedly given up their LPG subsidy.

Rebutting the opposition's charge, Kumar said over 1.1 crore consumers have voluntarily given up their LPG subsidies on the Prime Minister's "appeal" and the rest of the total 91.7 crore consumers have not been affected by the hike.

"There has been no cut in subsidy to the poor," he said, adding the government is giving subsidy of Rs 13127 crore.

He termed the increase of Rs 86 per cylinder a "small hike", noting that the oil price in international market had gone up from 471 USD per Metric Tonn to $564.

Targeting Kharge, he said, "You are a senior member. You should keep the facts as they are and not mislead the House."

He said Kharge had happily forgotten that the UPA government in 2010 had decided to hike the LPG cylinder price by Rs 2 every month.

He added that the government has provided LPG connections to over 2 crore poor households in the last two years under the 'Ujjwala yojna'.

B Mahtab (BJD) asked the government to agree to a debate on the issue under Rule 193, which does not allow voting.

BJP member and former Home Secretary R K Singh objected to Kharge's use of the term "Modi government", arguing that it is the government of India.

Kharge retorted saying that the Prime Minister himself uses the phrase and hardly says even BJP government.