New Delhi: Petrol and diesel prices are surging by the day, but Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan is unfazed. “Don’t criticise us for fuel price hike, press should focus on the good work we have done. Many others have done worse,” he said.
Pradhan went on to give the rationale for the hike — that prices have soared in the international market and that the government had done its bit to keep the prices in check. “We have reduced excise duty also to contain fuel prices,” Pradhan said. Even as the Minister gave his alibi, fuel prices moved up further: petrol stood at Rs 73.83 per litre while diesel was priced at Rs 64.69 a litre in the national capital. Petro prices dovetail global sentiment, but ironically crude oil prices had plummeted in the period mid-2014 to mid-2016. It is only since July 1 last year that global crude oil prices have spurted, adding to your fuel bills.
But had the government passed on the full benefit to the consumer when prices were low, they would not be so restive now. The Finance Minister’s response has been equally puzzling: He had raised excise duty nine times between November 2014 and January 2016 to fill up his coffers even as global oil prices fell, but then cut the tax just once in October last year by Rs 2 a litre.No wonder senior Congress leader P Chidamabaram has dubbed the BJP government as “anti-poor” and “anti-middle class.” He has also alleged that the BJP government believes in “cruel taxation” and “imprudent borrowing”. Noting that crude oil price had fallen from USD 108 in May 2014 to USD 77 in April 2018, the former finance minister asked, “Why are petrol and diesel prices today higher than the prices in May 2014?”
Congress leader Randeep Surjewala accused the BJP of profiteering at the cost of common people, alleging that while international crude oil prices have come down by more than 30 percent, the BJP government has earned a windfall of Rs 7.35 lakh crore by levying various central taxes on petrol and diesel. “Where has the money gone? Instead of passing the benefit to ordinary Indians, they got brutally taxed by BJP,” he said.