Delhi petrol pump owners protest against diesel tax hike

New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) A group of Delhi petrol pump owners Thursday decided to shun the usual slogan-shouting mode of protest and instead adopted the ‘Gandhigiri’ approach when they staged a silent protest with roses in front of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s residence against the diesel tax hike.

About 100 petrol pump dealers also submitted a memorandum to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and met Dikshit to demand parity of value added tax (VAT) on diesel in the city with adjoining states like Haryana.

The hike in VAT from 12.5 to 20 percent in the Delhi government’s budget makes diesel in Delhi more expensive compared to neighbouring areas, thereby driving down sales.

Protesting the Gandhigiri way, the owners offered flowers to Dikshit, who said her government was in the midst of talks with neighbouring states to bring parity in VAT prices, an association member said after the meeting.

‘The sale of diesel in Delhi fell to nearly 3.5 crore litres in one year till April last year after Haryana reduced VAT on diesel to 8.8 percent in 2008. But, instead of addressing the problem, VAT was hiked to 20 percent resulting in the dip of sales,’ Atul Peshwaria, president of the Delhi petrol dealers association, told reporters.

The association members claimed that about 10,000 employees working at the city pumps were going to lose their jobs in the next two months if VAT on diesel was not reduced to 8.8 percent immediately.

‘We are bound to intensify our protests in the coming days if the problem is not resolved on an urgent basis,’ Peshwaria said, adding that the association never wanted to create any inconvenience to the people.

‘But we planned a one-day protest (weekly off) every Monday and if it doesn’t yield any results, we may go for an indefinite strike from June till our demand for uniformity in VAT on diesel is met,’ he added.

Speaking to IANS, an association member said, they will meet Friday morning to chart out their next plan of action on the issue.

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