Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday called the increasing fuel prices a “vexatious” matter and said that there was no answer other than reducing the rates, reported The Times of India.
“I am treading on an area where whatever I may say to bring reality into picture will sound like I am avoiding the answer or shifting the blame,” Sitharaman said. “Fuel price rise is an issue in which no answer except for reducing the price would convince anyone.”
She said that the central and state governments need to figure out a way to bring down the retail price of fuel at a reasonable level. Petrol and diesel prices have been soaring for the past few weeks. Petrol price in some areas has already crossed the Rs 100-mark. However, unlike Sitharaman, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Wednesday blamed earlier governments for the skyrocketing fuel prices.
On Saturday, petrol in Delhi was priced at Rs 90.58 a litre, while diesel cost Rs 80.97. In Mumbai, petrol prices touched an all-time high of Rs 97 per litre, while diesel rate crossed the Rs 88-mark.
Sitharaman said that the fuel prices have been freed and that the Centre has no control over it. She said that the prices were worked up by oil marketing companies. “The OMCs decide whether to reduce or hike oil prices depending upon the cost incurred in importing the crude, refining it, distribution and logistics,” the finance minister said.
She stressed that the constant hike in brent price since November as well as cuts in production predicted by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries may put further pressure on oil prices in the coming days.
On a question if petrol and diesel can be brought under the Goods and Tax Services regime, Sitharaman said that it can only be decided after a thorough discussion in the GST council meet and with consultation with the states. “Once they agree on a rate, all over the country there can be a uniform rate of petrol,” she said. “There can be just one tax that can be shared by both [the] Centre and the states.”
Opposition parties, including the Congress, have blamed the Modi government for the exorbitant fuel prices, by raising taxes to scoop out the benefit repeated from international oil rates plunging to a two-decade low in April and May. While global rates have rebounded with a pick up in demand, the government has not restored the taxes, which are at a record high.
As per an analysis by BloombergQuint, the key factor for costlier petrol and diesel are taxes that account for about 55% to 60% of what consumers pay at the petrol pump. In the last year, the two fuels have turned costlier by Rs 17.35 and Rs 15 a litre, respectively.
Congress stages protest in Madhya Pradesh over increasing fuel prices
Congress leaders and workers in Madhya Pradesh on Saturday observed a half-day strike to protest against the rising fuel prices, reported PTI. Former state minister PC Sharma said he and several other Congress leaders were detained by the police in Bhopal.
The bandh has so far evoked mixed response. Many shops in Bhopal and elsewhere could be seen operating as usual. While the Bharatiya Janata Party said that the bandh has failed, the Congress claimed that it has received a good response.
Bhupendra Gupta, the spokesperson for the Madhya Pradesh unit of the Congress, accused the BJP-led state government of forcibly keeping the shops open. “Our bandh is getting a good response,” he claimed.
However, state BJP’s chief spokesperson Deepak Vijayvargiya said the Congress has no bearing in Madhya Pradesh and claimed that the bandh has completely failed.