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Vehicle owners are people who are "not starving" and can afford to pay for petrol, Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam on Saturday said, defending the fuel price hike. He said the tax was aimed at mobilising resources for infrastructure projects. "All the money collected goes to the poor and it is an intentional decision taken by the government," Alphons told reporters here. He was speaking after visiting the BJP state head office for the first time on assuming charge as Union Minister for Tourism and IT. "So we are going to tax people who can afford to pay. Who buys petrol... Somebody with car, somebody with a bike. Certainly, they are not starving.
Somebody who can afford to pay, has to pay," he said. "Yes we are imposing tax on petroleum products... So that poor in the country will have a dignified life," the minister said. He said the funds are being used among other things to build toilets and houses for the poor. When pointed out that the BJP had opposed fuel price hike during the UPA regime, Alphons said the government was using the money for the poor and the downtrodden. "Our motto is simple. We are here for the welfare of the lowest in the downtrodden. To make houses and toilets and to get electricity to every villages, it is going to cost enormous amount of money," he said. Alphons' remarks come at a time when the Congress has demanded withdrawal of central excise duties and other taxes on petrol and diesel and that it would soon launch a signature campaign in protest. "The Narendra Modi led government's main focus was welfare of the poor and downtrodden. In India 30 per cent of the people are downtrodden and crores of rupees were needed for their welfare," he said. Alphons said the tax for petroleum products could come down if it was brought under the ambit of GST. But states were not willing to bring liquor and petroleum products under GST, he added. Asked about price rise of essential commodities in the wake of fuel price hike, Alphons said inflation rate of four per cent in the country was less than half per cent prescribed by the RBI. Opposition leader in the state assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, hit out at the Union minister for his remarks on fuel price hike and described it as "utter foolishness".
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