Govt hints at fuel duty cut, as oppn mounts pressure over petrol-diesel prices

Record fuel prices have triggered a political row, with the Opposition attacking the NDA government for not taking steps to cut taxes on fuel so as to provide some relief to consumers, even as petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the government would work out a solution.

Petrol prices touched fresh highs in Delhi and Mumbai on Monday, at Rs 76.57/litre and RS 84.40/litre respectively. Diesel prices in the two cities reached Rs 67.82 and RS 72.21 per litre.

The Congress tweeted saying the Modi government was “fleecing” consumers. “The Modi Govt continues to fleece Indians on fuel prices. Petrol price in Mumbai has crossed Rs 84/L. This is the highest ever price for petrol in India,” the party said in a tweet.

“If the prime minister can control the price of petrol and diesel for his own interest ahead of the polls in Karnataka, why can’t he do it now and all year around in public interest?” party spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said. His reference is to fuel prices staying constant ahead of the state elections despite rising oil prices.

Speaking to ANI, Pradhan, the oil minister, said the central government has “taken the responsibility to reduce the net impact by Rs 2.50 and Rs 2.35”, hinting at some cuts in duties or commissions.

“Just as the central government has taken responsibility, states should also take responsibility to reduce VAT, which directly goes into their account. The VAT on fuel goes up to 40%. States are the biggest beneficiaries of all collections. Even if they reduce VAT by 5%, consumers will benefit,” he said.

Petrol and diesel prices have surged in the country after a rally in international crude oil, which last week rose the highest since 2014 due to production cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries or Opec.Slamming the government, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury too questioned the Centre’s decision to put on hold rise in oil prices in the run-up to Karnataka polls. “Oil firms resume daily price revision. The 19-day pre-Karnataka polls hikes were stalled. Why was it stopped then, and why resumed, we have no explanation for it. So just fool the people, speak of ‘no govt regulation’ of (oil) price, then only cynical manipulation till polls,” he tweeted.“Skyrocketing oil prices has put great burden on the common man.” Yechury said.

Opposition leader Sharad Yadav said the government’s unwillingness to reduce taxes on oil prices made it “anti-people”. He said when oil prices were trading low, the government was more interested in using the revenue from oil taxes to bridge its fiscal deficit instead of passing on the benefits of relatively low international crude price to consumers.Yadav said the government should bring petrol and diesel under the Goods and Services Tax. He said that would make their prices stable.

Industry lobbies, such as Ficci and Assocham, on Monday also appealed to the government to cut fuel excise duty. “Unless swift action is taken to address the situation, economic growth will again head towards a speed breaker. Among the most immediate actions that can be taken by the government is to bring down the excise duty on fuel,” FICCI president Rashesh Shah said.