On a day that Petrol and Diesel prices in the national capital reached a four-year-high and all-time-high respectively, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has replied along two lines over India's skyrocketing fuel rates.
Speaking to reporters, Pradhan essentially said that while the government had reduced excise duties in the recent past, it was also up to the states, based on their requirement, to give relief to citizens, and in broader terms, the responsibility of the GST council to bring petroleum products under the ambit of the Goods and Services Tax.
When asked about the high prices, Pradhan said:
- "Nothing to hide. Petroleum products are international commodities. Whenever there's a price hike in crude oil, there are some pinching price in Indian market also. India is a consumer-centric country. We're concerned. We're on the job. Regarding taxes, few months back, govt of India has reduced excise duty. In those days we've expected similar cooperation from states. Some states have reduced their VAT. On this occasion when there's a price issue, let respective states respond respectively.(sic)"
- "Regarding the broader policy framework, again I'll appeal to the GST council, through concensus, finally this product has to come into the GST framework. Consumer should get rational price all over the country.(sic)"
When asked if fuel prices will come down, Pradhan said:
'Look, in the country, there can't be any knee-jerk reaction and decision. The Government is keeping all these matters in mind. Accordingly, we had reduced excise duty. It's a dual responsibility of the Centre and states. Development works should keep going on. Consumer's pocket should also be kept in mind. We're working with all this in mind.'
'When excise duty had been cut, the consumer had benefited. It's not a political question. Each state has its own requirements. '
'On the broader policy framework, the GST will have to take a decision to bring petroleum pricing into a rational framework by bringing it into a rational mechanism.'
Petrol prices hit a four-year high of Rs 73.73 a litre while diesel rates touched an all-time high of Rs 64.58 in the national capital, renewing calls for the government to slash excise duty on oil import.
The Centre has faced political criticism, with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee leading the charge. Here's what she said:
"Diesel/petrol prices are rising and rising and rising. People are suffering. Kitchens are burning. Government is only talking."