Union Petroleum Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Friday defended the current levels of taxes on petrol and diesel, saying that they fund government initiatives such as free meals and cooking gas, and Covid-19 vaccines, Mint reported.

Puri made the statement while addressing a press conference at the end of the India Energy Forum industry event.

The minister noted that the country administered one billion coronavirus vaccine doses, fed 90 crore people for one full year and provided free cooking gas refill to 8 crore beneficiaries under the Ujjwala scheme. “All this and much more with that Rs 32 a litre excise duty,” he said.

Puri added that money collected through tax was also spent for building roads, constructing houses for the poor and other social welfare schemes.

He criticised the “simplistic political narrative” calling for a reduction in taxes when global oil prices rise, The Hindu reported. “So every time prices goes up due to something else, it says you axe your own feet in the process,” he said. “I am not very sensitive to that kind of discussion.”

On October 12, Union Minister for State of Petroleum and Natural Gas Rameswar Teli had also made a similar argument to defend taxes on petrol and diesel.

“Fuel prices are not high but include the tax levied,” he had said. “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.”

Fuel price rise

Fuel prices across the country have increased sharply since the last week of September. Both petrol and diesel prices were hiked in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata on Saturday, the Economic Times reported.

Among metro cities, fuel was the costliest in Mumbai. Petrol cost Rs 113.12 per litre, while diesel cost Rs 104.00 per litre in the city. Petrol currently costs more than Rs 100 a litre in all four metro cities.

Fuel prices vary in states due to different value-added tax and freight charges. Oil companies revise the fuel prices on the basis of the cost of benchmark fuel in the international market and foreign exchange rates.

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