On a day when petrol crossed the Rs-100 mark, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday blamed the previous governments for not cutting India's energy import dependence.
While addressing an online event to inaugurate oil and gas projects in poll-bound Tamil Nadu, Modi said the middle class would not have been burdened if the previous governments had focussed on reducing India's energy import dependence.
Without referring to the relentless increase in retail fuel prices, which are linked to international rates, he added that India imported over 85 per cent of its oil needs in the 2019–20 financial year and 53 per cent of its gas requirement.
"Can a diverse and talented nation like ours be so energy import dependent?" he asked.
"I do not want to criticise anyone, but I want to say (that) had we focused on this subject much earlier, our middle class would not be burdened."
Price of petrol crossed the Rs-100-per-litre mark in Rajasthan after fuel rates were hiked for the 10th day in a row. Since India imports a majority of its oil, retail rates are benchmarked to international prices, which have spiralled in recent weeks.
Opposition parties, including Congress, have criticised the price hikes, blaming it on the Modi government raising taxes to scoop out the benefit that arose from international oil rates plunging to a two-decade low in April/May last year. While global rates have rebounded with pick-up in demand, the government has not restored the taxes, which are at a record high.
Central and state taxes make up for 60 per cent of the retail selling price of petrol and over 54 per cent of diesel.
The PM further said it was a collective duty to work towards clean and green sources of energy as well as energy independence.
"Our government is sensitive to the concerns of the middle class. That is why India is now increasing the focus on ethanol to help farmers and consumers," Modi said.
India, he added, is looking to cut energy import dependence as well as diversify its sources to reduce risks.
The focus now is also towards using renewable sources of energy, which will, by 2030, form 40 per cent of the energy generated in the country, he said, listing measures such as increased share of solar power, focus on public transport, switching to LED bulbs, scrappage policy for vehicles, and use of solar pumps in irrigation.
On Thursday, petrol prices were hiked for the 10th consecutive day. Petrol and diesel prices in the national capital stood at Rs 89.88 per litre and Rs 80.27 per litre, respectively on Thursday morning.
The price of petrol saw a hike of 34 paise per litre today, while diesel price increased by 32 paise per litre.
Earlier, during her budget speech, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the imposition of Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess of Rs 2.5 per litre on petrol and Rs 4 per litre on diesel.
The price of liquefied petroleum gas cylinder (14.2 kg domestic cylinder) also increased by Rs 50 per unit in Delhi on 14 February, taking the cost of LPG gas to Rs 769 per cylinder.
(With inputs from PTI and ANI)