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India protests record-high fuel price hikes -The Asian Age


Opposition-led protests have unfolded across India over surging fuel prices, a key issue ahead of next year's general election. Pockets of the country saw protesters block trains and vandalize cars.

Nationwide protests against record-high petrol and diesel prices broke out across India on Monday, local media reported, shutting down businesses, government offices and schools in many parts of the country.

Petrol and diesel taxes are one of the biggest sources of income for the government, and a key issue for voters ahead of general elections next year.

Opposition parties teamed up to organize their first protest action with an eye on the upcoming elections. They blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the rising cost of fuel. Read more: Biofuels: Good or bad for the environment?

Past governments have usually lowered taxes whenever international oil prices surged, but Modi's administration has so far made no significant adjustments. While the demonstrations had little effect on Indian cities on Monday, protesters in some areas of the country blocked trains and roads and vandalized and burned vehicles. 

The impact of the protests was felt particularly in opposition-ruled states such as Kerala and West Bengal, as well as in metropolitan cities including the financial capital of Mumbai and Bangalore. In Bihar and Madhya Pradesh states, local media reported that the protests turned violent. 

Ravi Shankar Prasad, the country's justice minister, condemned the violence and said "there is no role of government in fuel hikes, it is due to external factors," according to The Hindustan Times."The BJP strongly believes that despite some momentary difficulties, the people of India do not support this protest," the paper reported Prasad as saying.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was among those who blamed the higher fuel prices and a falling rupee currency on the prime minister's policies."Prime Minister Modi has failed to deliver on the promises made to the country. The rupee has never has been weaker in 70 years of independence," The Indian Express news site quoted Gandhi as saying.

"Today, the entire opposition is sitting together. All of us will work together to oust BJP," Gandhi said according to the Times of India newspaper."Narendra Modi is silent, he has not spoken a word on rising prices of fuel," he added.