New Delhi 10 Sep (KTNS): Several opposition parties – led by Congress – have called for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ today to protest against a spate of fuel price hikes that have catapulted petrol and diesel prices across the country to record levels. Prices of both – already having set records earlier this year – rose for almost all of last week and even petrol breached the Rs 80/litre mark in the national capital.

Even as the common man grimaces daily, the government has repeatedly blamed global factors for the surge in prices. “Due to two major external factors this unavoidable situation is there in market. American dollar is creating a unique and unavoidable situation which is not good for world’s economy also,” Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had said. He also blamed OPEC for not producing as much as previously assured.

Meanwhile, a senior Congress leader appealed to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to support the nation-wide strike call given by his party over rising fuel prices in the country.

“We appeal to all concerned citizens and organisations to observe a voluntary bandh (strike) from 9 am to 3 pm today to protest against the unprecedented hike on petrol, diesel, domestic gas and other essential commodities, AICC secretary co-incharge Jammu and Kashmir affairs Shakeel Ahmad Khan told reporters here.

He said a nationwide call for ‘Bharat bandh’ was given by the Congress and other like-minded parties to draw the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government towards the plight of the common man.

Khan claimed the Modi government had already collected over Rs 11 lakh crore as tax on petrol, diesel and gas, which he alleged was an “open loot” of the budget of common people.

He claimed the excise duty on petrol since May 2014 was increased by 211.7 per cent and on diesel by 443.06 per cent. The excise duty was hiked during BJP government’s tenure 12 times, the cost of gas cylinder (non-subsidized) has gone up from Rs 414 to 754 per cylinder and that of subsidized cylinder from Rs 412 to Rs 496 during the period, he said.

He said the Congress, time and again, demanded that petrol and diesel be brought under the GST ambit which would reduce the price but the Modi Government and BJP had remained unmoved.

So we have no option but to call for a Bharat Bandh to move the Modi government, he said.

He said Congress cadres along with other like-minded people would organise peaceful protest demonstrations in different parts of the state on 10 September.