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India faces protests over rising fuel prices

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Roads were empty, businesses were closed and schools shut down in parts of India, as opposition politicians looking toward elections called for a nationwide strike over rising fuel prices, reported Dawn (Pakistan).

While the strike caused barely a ripple in many cities, protesters burned tires in remote Arunachal Pradesh, threw stones at stores that refused to close in the southern state of Karnataka and stopped buses from running in part of Gujarat.

Opposition leaders had called for a complete shutdown, with all businesses, schools and transportation networks closed.

The opposition, with an eye on national elections next year and key state elections later this year, blame the rising prices on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP).

"Narendra Modi: Down! Down!" demonstrators chanted at a small New Delhi protest.

Fuel prices are up nearly 15 per cent this year in India, largely as a result of the falling value of the Indian rupee.

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Despite Opposition's 'Bharat Bandh', fuel prices continued its northward march with petrol being sold at Rs 80.87 and diesel at Rs 72.97 per litre in the national capital, reported The New Indian Express (India).

Both the petrol and diesel prices saw hike of 14 paise per litre in Delhi. Meanwhile, in Mumbai, petrol and diesel have touched a new high of Rs 88.26 and Rs 77.47 per litre respectively.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje announced a four-per cent reduction in value-added tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel, which would reduce their prices by Rs 2.5 per litre in the state. It would cost the state exchequer Rs 2,000 crore.

On the other hand, the Chandrababu Naidu-led government slashed the fuel prices in Andhra Pradesh by Rs 2. The new rates will be applicable from today.

The decision, which would cause a revenue loss of Rs 1,120 crore per annum to the State exchequer, came amidst Opposition's Bharat Bandh against rising fuel prices.

As many as 21 opposition parties, both regional and national, extended their support to the countrywide strike. Naidu's TDP too supported the Bandh.

Making a statement on the price cut in the AP Legislative Assembly, Naidu demanded that the Centre reduce excise duty and cess on petrol and diesel to provide more relief to people.

“Despite financial crunch, keeping in view the trouble being faced by public due to rise in fuel prices, my government took the initiative. The Centre, which had collected excise duty of Rs 23 lakh crore on petrol and diesel since June 2014, should slash the fuel prices as the people are seething with anger over the skyrocketing prices,’’ he said.

The taxes being imposed by the State government are 31 per cent on petrol and 22.25 per cent on diesel per litre, besides an additional tax of Rs 4 at present.

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