The governments of Assam and Meghalaya have announced an increase in the taxes levied on petrol and diesel resulting in a sharp rise in the prices even as the global crude oil prices plummeted into negative for the first time in history because of the coronavirus, The Indian Express reported on Thursday.

A litre of petrol in Meghalaya will now cost Rs 74.9 while diesel will cost Rs 67.5. “The new rate of tax for petrol is 31% or Rs 17.6 per litre and 22.5% for diesel or Rs 12.5 per litre,” a government notification said on Wednesday. Two per cent sales tax surcharge will also be levied on both petrol and diesel, the notice added.

In Assam, too, the price of petrol has been increased from Rs 71.61 to Rs 77.46 per litre and that of diesel from Rs 65.07 to Rs 70.50 per litre. The revised rates was brought into effect from April 22 midnight. The government said the steep increase in fuel prices was necessary to cover “some of the losses” incurred because of the countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of infection.

The Opposition in Meghalaya has strongly objected to the price revision, with Congress leader Ampareen Lyngdoh questioning the need of increasing taxes at this point of time.

“When international oil prices have fallen, we do not understand the need for the hike in taxes on petrol and diesel,” she said, according to The Indian Express. “The common people will be bearing the brunt of it as prices of essential commodities will increase.”

Meanwhile, Assam Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed the surge in fuel prices was a temporary measure and “the pain has to be borne by all”, according to the Hindustan Times.

The state government was losing revenue as consumers buying fuel had come down drastically and we had to increase the prices to cover some of the losses, Sarma said. “Once the coronavirus ends, we will review it again.”.

Assam earns an average of Rs 166 crore monthly as royalty from sale of oil. But because of the prices coming down that figure would be less than Rs 50 crore per month, Sharma said.

“We will be doubly hit as international prices have come down and our royalty from Oil India [Oil India Limited] and ONGC [Oil and Natural Gas Corporation] will also come down drastically,” he added. “Besides, fuel sale in the state has almost been negligible.”

The minister added that since a lockdown is in place, people at large would not be affected as most of them are unable to use their private vehicles, while other automobiles such as buses and trucks are also plying in a limited manner.