Union Minister for State of Petroleum and Natural Gas Rameswar Teli said that the fuel prices in the country were high because the government spent money to provide free Covid-19 vaccination to citizens, ANI reported on Monday.

“Fuel prices are not high but include the tax levied,” he said on Saturday while addressing mediapersons in Guwahati. “You must have taken a free vaccine, where will the money come from? You have not paid the money, this is how it was collected.”

Teli, who represents the Assam’s Dilbrugarh constituency in Lok Sabha, also said that the central government has to vaccinate 130 crore citizens for free in India, India Today reported.

“The price of each vaccine is around Rs 1,200, and each person will be vaccinated [with] two doses,” he said.

Petrol prices in India have increased for seven consecutive days in October, NDTV reported. In Delhi on Monday, petrol cost Rs 104.44 per litre, and in Mumbai it cost Rs 110.41 per litre.

Teli on Saturday said that the base price of petrol is Rs 40 per litre, according to India Today. The taxes imposed by Centre and States further increase the cost, he said.

He claimed that the Assam government imposed the lowest value added tax of Rs 29 on fuel. He also said that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has imposed a tax of Rs 30.

“Our ministry does not fix the oil prices, the commerce department has fixed it and it has been linked with the international market,” Teli said.

India depends on imports to meet 85% of its oil needs. Thus, a rise in international oil prices directly influences national fuel rates.

The Union minister claimed that Opposition-ruled states in India such as Rajasthan and Maharashtra, have not reduced the value added tax on petrol.

“They [the Rajasthan government] are thinking that if the price of oil will increase more by levying more taxes by them, then the Modi government will be defamed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Teli also compared the price of petrol to a bottle of Himalayan packaged drinking water, according to India Today.

“If you want to drink Himalayan water, then you have to pay Rs 100 for one bottle,” he said. “When crude oil price will rise in the international market then petrol, diesel prices will automatically hike.”

Opposition leaders have criticised Teli for his comment. Advocate Somnath Bharati, an MLA from Aam Aadmi Party who represents Delhi’s Malviya Nagar constituency, said that the “cost of free vaccines comes from fuel hikes”.

Dr Shama Mohamed, the Congress national spokesperson, said that the cost of vaccinating citizens across India is Rs 67,193 crore.

“The reality is that [the] BJP government has collected Rs 25 lakh crore in fuel tax till now,” she said in a tweet.