Car own­ers aren’t starv­ing, can af­ford higher fuel prices: Min­is­ter Alphons

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - FRONT PAGE - Ramesh Babu let­ters@hin­dus­tan­

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Union tourism min­is­ter KJ Alphons stoked a con­tro­versy on Satur­day when he jus­ti­fied fuel price hikes by say­ing that peo­ple who could af­ford ve­hi­cles should be pay­ing the in­creased prices.

Speak­ing to me­dia, Alphons said the Union gov­ern­ment was im­pos­ing tax to help the poor lead a dig­ni­fied life.

“Who buys petrol? Some­body who has a car or bike. Cer­tainly he’s not starv­ing. Peo­ple who can af­ford to pay should pay,” he said, adding that peo­ple who al­ways crit­i­cise fuel price hike should re­mem­ber it is for the ben­e­fit of the coun­try.

The bu­reau­crat-turned-politi­cian’s com­ment come at a time when fuel prices are at a three­year high though in­ter­na­tional crude prices have crashed, at­tract­ing crit­i­cism from op­po­si­tion par­ties which de­scribed them as in­sen­si­tive to the com­mon man’s prob­lems.

Congress leader and for­mer pe­tro­leum min­is­ter Veer­appa Moily called it an atro­cious state­ment.

“This is how bu­reau­crats, who come to pol­i­tics, have no un­der­stand­ing of peo­ple’s prob­lems. Many of the min­is­ters in Modi’s gov­ern­ment are like this.”

Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samithi spokesman Bhanuprasad de­scribed Alphons’ state­ment as shock­ing. The gov­ern­ment is still fleec­ing peo­ple when crude prices have come down, he said.

In his speech in Thiruvananthapuram, Alphons said the Modi gov­ern­ment was com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing the wel­fare of the down­trod­den by build­ing houses for the home­less, pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity in all vil­lages and build­ing toi­lets in all houses.

“We are im­pos­ing taxes to help the poor. All money col­lected is not be­ing stolen by Union min­is­ters,” he said adding it was the pre­vi­ous UPA regime that stole the money. “Those who own ve­hi­cle re­quire petrol also. I don’t think they have any prob­lem in find­ing their food. In In­dia at least 30% of the peo­ple are starv­ing. The Modi gov­ern­ment gives top pri­or­ity to im­prove their lot. So those who are us­ing fuel have to cough up tax also,” he said adding the tax be­ing levied was reach­ing the pub­lic.

This is not the first time Alphons has courted trou­ble since he was made a min­is­ter. Re­cently, he ad­vised for­eign tourists to eat beef in their coun­tries be­fore com­ing to In­dia.

Alphons Kan­nan­thanam

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