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Congress demands ‘unconditional public apology’ from CM Biren for remark justifying price hike in petroleum products

MPCC president Govindas Konthoujam

MPCC president Govindas alleged that CM Biren ridiculed the people by asking from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi would give free rice, free medicines and free vaccine if there were no returns, and whether the free items would fall from sky.

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Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) condemned the recent remarks of Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh, on free rice, free medicines and free vaccines being provided to the people during the COVID-19 pandemic. The party also demanded “unconditional public apology to the people of Manipur for his unforgivable and morally very dehumanising words to our poor and needy people in the state during COVID pandemic”.

In a scathing attack on the chief minister, MPCC president Govindas Konthoujam, in a video message on Tuesday, accused CM Biren of creating “an infamous record of publicly humiliating and mocking the helplessness of the ordinary citizens of India in Manipur”. The BJP chief minister ridiculed the people by asking from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi would give free rice, free medicines and free vaccine if there were no returns, and whether the free items would fall from sky, he asserted. 

Govindas also maintained that the Congress party was not surprised by CM Biren’s public statements as they overtly reflect the thinking of BJP’s ideology and political principles towards the poor and the downtrodden. 

“We know that those who have no respect for Mahatma Gandhi ji will also have no respect for the poor. Had BJP respected Mahatma Gandhi ji, the BJP chief minister would not have uttered such distasteful words,” he said. 

Govindas also asserted that the “insensitivity and humiliating” public mockery by the chief minister towards the poor people of Manipur showed that Manipur’s BJP Government has no regards for the poor people in the state. His statement is, indeed, unbecoming of a chief minister of a state, he added. 

He said that since the BJP came to power in 2017 in the state, the people of Manipur have already given Rs 702 crores as state’s taxes, such as sales tax/ VAT (Value Added Tax), in buying petrol to the state exchequer, as per the Union Government’s PPAC data. Even during COVID-19 pandemic, in the financial year of 2020-21, the people of Manipur gave Rs. 167 crores through state’s tax collection to the BJP Government in the state. 

Govindas further said that the BJP government, in COVID-19 pandemic (2020-21), had collected Rs. 5 crores more than the total of Rs. 162 crores collected during the first year (2017-18) of the BJP rule in the state. Manipur Government takes VAT as 36.5% in every litre of petrol. Today, petrol prices in the state have crossed Rs. 100 per litre. 

Through petrol, BJP government in the state received Rs. 162 crores in 2017-18, Rs. 181 crores in 2018-19, Rs. 192 crores in 2019-20, and Rs. 167 crores in 2020-21, and the total receipts is Rs. 702 crores from 2017 till date, he said and added that this amount of Rs. 702 crores is not from the BJP government in the state or Modi government, but it is paid by the honest earnings of the people of Manipur. So, the people of Manipur gave the chief minister Rs. 702 crores, he added. 

Govindas further asked the chief minister why did he take Rs. 167 crores through petrol from the people’s pockets during COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21 instead of giving something back, in the form of an economic package, to the poor and needy people of the state to fight the covid pandemic?

He also wondered if the chief minister claiming to be leading the “people’s centric government” has ever reduced a single paise in petrol for the people of Manipur since 2017. 

“Does not your BJP government hold the constitutional obligations to help the poor by providing them the free rice, the free medicines and the free vaccines as per the constitutional and fundamental rights, and as guaranteed in statutory acts passed in the Parliament and national government’s executive policy?”

The MPCC president also demanded the chief minister to produce a white paper on the balance sheets of the credit and debit of the donations received and its corresponding expenditure, and the amount received by the state government from the central government to fight covid pandemic during the first wave. He also demanded the details of the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund to fight the pandemic during the first wave. 

Stating that rice and medicines are already provided for free under different constitutional schemes of the central government to all the eligible citizens of the country, Govindas said that vaccines, too, are provided for free to 75 per cent by the central government as per the policy announced by the prime minister. 

“What has the state BJP government done to give additional rice, medicines and vaccines, above the allotted statutory rights of the beneficiaries of the centrally sponsored schemes, for the entire population of Manipur during covid pandemic,” he asked. 

The Congress leader also accused the BJP government of indulging in ‘double standard politics” by consistently raising heavy taxes on petrol and giving back nothing to the people to fight covid pandemic.

On the chief minister’s statement who reportedly asked what the previous Congress governments had done for the state in 15 years, Govindas pointed out that before joining the BJP, CM Biren was not only a cabinet minister but also the spokesperson of Ibobi government. 

Does he mean to say that the Congress government, in which he was the minister for a full term in 2007-12, did not do anything for the people of the state, Govindas asked and asserted that CM Biren’s hypocrisy and double speak are being exposed today, and the people of Manipur are its witness. 

Maintaining that as per the National Disaster Management Act, food, medicines, essential commodities, drinking water, shelter, etc. are to be provided for free to the people during notified national calamities, and COVID-19 pandemic has already been notified as a national disaster, the MPCC president said that Congress governments, in the past, gave free polio, TB and Hepatitis vaccinations to the people.  

The Congress leader further said that the Modi government has received Rs. 20.55 lakh crores since 2014 till date through central excise duty and other central taxes from the people of India through petrol. Even during covid pandemic (2020-21), the Union Government received Rs. 2.76 lakh crores from the people’s pockets, he added. He also attacked the prime minister demanding to spend the amount to fight the pandemic. 

“As the Modi government took Rs. 2.76 lakh crores from the people through petrol during covid pandemic, did the Modi government spend Rs. 2 lakh crores to fight covid pandemic in our nation?”

Stating that RBI gave Rs. 99,122 crores to Modi government in May, 2021, Govindas maintained that the people of India are paying a hefty 260 per cent tax on fuel, while it is just 20 per cent in the USA. The cost of petrol without any tax or commission is hardly Rs. 35 per litre in India, he added. 

Maintaining that the Congress party always stands for the rights and the dignity of the poorest of the poor in the society, Govindas appealed to the people of the state to raise questions for their rights to the BJP regime.

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