May 15, 2022
Maha: People Rise to Protest Fuel Price Hikes& Defend People’s Unity

Uday Narkar

MAHARASHTRA state committee of the CPI(M) called on the people of the state to protest against the almost daily hikes in fuel prices imposed by the BJP central government by observing a statewide ‘One Hour Boycott Satyagraha of Fuel Purchase', along with demonstrations on April 27, 2022.

April 27 saw a large number of Party cadres and activists of various class and mass organisations thronging the petrol–diesel–LPG outlets all over the state for picketing between 11am to 12 noon.

A planned campaign preceded the actual day of the satyagraha. Activists of the Party as well as CITU, AIKS, AIAWU, AIDWA, DYFI and SFI conducted basti and village meetings and explained the factors that impacted the daily price hikes in fuel. Fliers in thousands, explaining how the Modi regime is looting the common people by increasing the excise duty and cess on fuel, were distributed. It was explained how the Modi-led BJP government had turned into a shameless dacoit.

When the BJP formed its government in 2014 the excise duty on petrol and diesel was Rs 9.48 and 3.56 respectively. The price of crude oil that we import has fallen for seven years in the international market, but ironically, the domestic consumer prices of fuel have risen in inverse proportion.  The central government earned Rs 1.26 lac crore in excise duty in 2014-15. That earning went up to a whopping Rs 4.19 lac crore in 2020-21. The Modi government thus increased this tax by 250 per cent over seven years. Similar is the situation of cooking gas. If this ‘jizya tax’ imposed by the BJP government were repealed, it was possible to reduce the prices by half, it was explained.

Common people, especially women, responded to the call enthusiastically and carried out this campaign in their areas. In many places, stickers against the fuel price hikes were distributed to be displayed on vehicles. The consumers coming to the pumps for refills actually joined the protest at several places. The petrol pump operators, both management and especially workers, were seen to be sympathetic to this demand. The agitation was widely covered in local electronic media as well as state-level print media. Based on this experience, further campaigns against fuel price hikes are sure to gather momentum, especially with the LPG cylinder crossing the one thousand mark.


The working class of the state, as all over the world, celebrates May Day with great enthusiasm. May Day has special significance for Maharashtra because it was on May 1, 1960, that the linguistic state of Maharashtra was formed. The working class of the state, led by the textile workers of Mumbai, had fought with great courage, determination and sacrifice for the formation of the state.

It may be recalled that capitalists were opposed to the inclusion of Mumbai in the newly formed Marathi linguistic state and the then central government of the Congress had acquiesced to their pressure and tried to separate Mumbai from the rest of Maharashtra and make it a union territory. Workers belonging to all castes, religions and linguistic groups participated in huge numbers in this democratic struggle for over five years. 106 martyrs, mostly industrial workers from Mumbai, and also peasants from rural areas, laid down their lives for this democratic cause.

This struggle was led by the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, comprising the Communist Party, Peasants and Workers Party, Praja Samajwadi Party and Republican Party. ‘Socialist Maharashtra in Socialist India’ became a household slogan. The communist folk artists spearheaded by the legendary singers and poets of the Lal Bavta Kalapathak - Amar Shaikh, Annabhau Sathe and Dattatraya Gavankar - contributed to this struggle, adding a massive cultural edge.

The then Congress leadership which had arrogantly proclaimed that ‘Mumbai shall not be given to Maharashtra till the sun and the moon, shine in the sky’, had to eat their words and concede the demand of Samyukta Maharashtra, Mumbai included.

May Day, as both International Workers’ Day and Maharashtra Day, held special significance this year in the background of the conspiracy hatched by the BJP, RSS and Raj Thackeray of the MNS to push the state into a communal cauldron. The state BJP has been frustrated for a long since its every attempt at destabilising the MVA government has come to a naught. Even the governor’s partisan interference has not helped the BJP to push the state into a communal frenzy. With the BJP stoking communal fires all over the country on Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, and especially it's recent bulldozing of communal amity in Delhi, this was pounced upon as an opportunity to push Maharashtra into the communal abyss. May 3 was the Ramzan Eid, a holy day for the Muslim community,  and Raj Thackeray, pushed into oblivion in recent times, was propped up by the BJP-RSS to demand that the loudspeakers on the mosques in the state should be removed. If they are not removed, Raj Thackeray threatened to publicly recite Hanuman Chalisa in front of the mosques all over the state. This was a cynical political stunt not only to destabilise the MVA government but push the state into a communal fire.

It was in this background that the CPI(M) took the lead and devised a two-pronged strategy: one, to observe this May Day as a day for the unity of the toiling classes on the issue of defending their livelihood; and, two, to rejuvenate the glorious democratic popular tradition of the state as evidenced in the struggle for the formation of the linguistic state.

The CPI(M) wrote to the state government to immediately convene an all-party meeting, which was eventually called by the deputy chief minister, Ajit Pawar. With the BJP opportunistically abstaining, the MNS was totally isolated with all the secular forces joining hands to demand strict action to maintain and enforce peace and communal amity in the state. State secretary, Uday Narkar and Vinod Nikole, MLA, attended this meeting on behalf of the CPI(M).

The CPI(M) also took the lead in convening a meeting of the Left and democratic political parties and mass organisations on April 19, presided over by Ashok Dhawale, Polit Bureau Member. It charted a plan of action to observe May Day as both Workers’ Day and Maharashtra Day, which is an emblem of people’s unity against the corporate-communal nexus.

The people all over the state responded to this call and May Day saw a rallying of thousands of workers, farmers, women, youth and students in defence of the toilers’ rights as well as their unity and integrity, cutting across all social divides. The day was marked by red flag hoisting, public meetings and colourful rallies all over the state.

Consequently, the people of the state, true to their progressive and democratic tradition, turned their backs on the divisive shenanigans of Raj Thackeray which were clandestinely supported by the BJP-RSS. With the people turning a deaf ear to the shrill campaign against the loudspeakers in the mosques, the MNS had to beat a retreat on Eid Day, leaving a frustrated BJP fuming at being badly isolated over the issue. The CPI(M), Left, democratic and secular forces will have to be vigilant and prepare to stave off further attacks to destabilize the state and break the unity of the toiling people.