Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday asked chief ministers of several Opposition-ruled states to reduce value-added tax on fuel, ANI reported.

Each states have different value-added tax, which affects the prices of fuel. Between March 22 and April 6, petrol and diesel costs had been increased by Rs 10 per litre. The rates have not been hiked since then.

Modi made the statement at the Covid-19 review meeting with chief ministers of several states.

He said that the Centre had cut excise duty on fuel prices in November to reduce the burden on Indian citizens.

“I am not criticizing anyone,” he told the chief ministers. “But request Maharashtra, West Bengal, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu to reduce VAT now and give benefits to people.”

The prime minister said that the Centre had earlier urged state governments to reduce taxes to benefit the citizens.

“Some states reduced taxes but some states did not give any benefit of this to the people,” he added, PTI reported. “Due to this, the prices of petrol and diesel in these states continue to remain high. In a way, this is not only injustice to the people of these states but it also has an impact on neighbouring states.”

Referring to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its consequences worldwide, Modi urged the states to work in coordination with the Union government, reported PTI.

“This global crisis is bringing many challenges,” he added. “In such a situation, it has become imperative to further enhance the spirit of cooperative federalism and coordination between the Centre and states.”

He also praised Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states Karnataka and Gujarat for following Centre’s directive on slashing taxes.

“Had Karnataka not cut taxes, it would have collected an additional over Rs 5,000 crore in revenues during the last six months,” Modi said, NDTV reported. “Gujarat would also have collected Rs 3,500-4,000 core more.”

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called Modi’s statement “misleading”.

“He [PM Modi] left the matter of rising prices of petrol, diesel and domestic gas on states, that states will have to slash prices,” she said, ANI reported. “How will states do it? You [the Centre] increased prices. Did you see your income? You said one-sided things to people.”

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that the state governments cannot be blamed for the rise in fuel prices. Maharashtra government was yet to receive Rs 26,500 crore in Goods and Services Tax compensations from the Central government, he added.

Pandemic not over yet: PM

Meanwhile, Modi told the chief ministers that the coronavirus pandemic is not over yet.

“We are seeing an uptick in Covid cases in some states now, we need to stay alert,” Modi said at a Covid-19 review meeting with the chief ministers.

He said that citizens must follow coronavirus-appropriate behaviour in public places.

“Stopping infections was our priority before,” the prime minister said. “It will continue to be our priority.”

Modi asked the chief ministers to “work with a preemptive, proactive and collective” approach to tackle the pandemic.

The prime minister also called for scaling up infrastructure and manpower at medical colleges and district hospitals, PTI reported.

On Wednesday, India recorded 2,927 coronavirus cases, a jump of 17.88% from 2,483 infections registered a day ago. With this, India’s overall infection tally climbed to 4,30,65,496 since the pandemic broke out in the country in January 2020. The toll rose to 5,23,654 on Wednesday with 32 deaths.

Daily coronavirus cases have been doubling in Delhi over the past week, with the national Capital now recording almost half of country’s fresh infections. Experts told that this could be due to the official relaxation in masks requirements, schools being reopened, more regular social gatherings and the highly transmissible sub-lineages of Omicron, among others.