New Delhi: Already high fuel prices across the country have witnessed further increases in the last few days - pushing petrol above the Rs 80-per-litre mark in the national capital on Saturday. In most other cities across the country, it is even more expensive courtesy state taxes. And the perpetually burdened common man - already feeling the pinch - is now feeling the pain.
Petrol has seen a hike of 87 paise per litre in just two days while diesel prices have gone up by Rs 1 per litre in the same period. The government - represented mainly by finance minister Arun Jaitley and oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan - has once again blamed international factors like rising crude prices in the global market. They add there is nothing to worry about.
Today Indian currency is stronger as ever, in comparison to all other currencies. But how do we purchase oil? Through Dollars. Today Dollar is, in a way, wold's biggest exchange currency. That is creating problem for us: Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on fuel price hike pic.twitter.com/eKgOyim8s8
— ANI (@ANI) September 8, 2018
Worry though is written clearly on faces of people at pumps across the country.
In Jaipur, where petrol on Saturday was at Rs 83.61 per litre and diesel at Rs 77.50 per litre, those looking for a refill were quite distraught. Almost every commuter - on bikes, scooters and in cars - told Zee News that they are paying through the nose. "We are left with no choice but to pay. I have never seen petrol prices this high. The government is not coming out to help us. If this continues, I will park my bike and get myself a cycle," said one such commuter.
In Delhi, petrol breached the Rs 80 per litre mark for the first time ever. The common man here, much like elsewhere, was left to bemoan his much lighter wallet.
Petrol & Diesel prices in #Delhi are Rs 80.38 per litre & Rs 72.51 per litre, respectively today. Locals say 'The price hike is scary for common man. If the prices go up with this speed then the situation can become worse in the coming days. Govt should think about it.' pic.twitter.com/8pFz7ep7mt
— ANI (@ANI) September 8, 2018
Mumbai is one of the most expensive cities to buy petrol and diesel in. Here, the two fuels were at Rs 87.77 and Rs 76.98 per litre.
And while the government maintains that factors beyond its control are pushing prices up, it is pocketing close to Rs 20,000 crore input tax by keeping petrol, diesel, natural gas, jet fuel and crude oil out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The Centre currently levies a total of Rs 19.48 per litre of excise duty on petrol and Rs 15.33 per litre on diesel. On top of this, states levy Value Added Tax (VAT) - the lowest being in Andaman and Nicobar Islands where a 6 percent sales tax is charged on both the fuel.
There has been a growing demand for the fuels to be put under GST and in the past, Pradhan has gone from saying that it is under consideration to stating that states may not agree. There is no denying though that while fuel prices under GST would mean lesser collections, it could come as a massive relief for people at large.
Fuel prices are likely to be a key factor in the run-up to Lok Sabha elections next year with several opposition parties already calling a nationwide bandh on September 10 to protest against the hikes. These parties have accused the government of hiking excise duty on petrol by Rs 11.77 a litre and that on diesel by 13.47 a litre in nine instalments between November 2014 and January 2016 to shore up finances as global oil prices fell, but then only cutting the tax just once in October last year by Rs 2 a litre.
Political rivalry aside, the ground reality is that a falling rupee, rising international crude prices and an unlikely cut in excise on fuel could indeed hit prices in India into triple digits. And this could be one century the common man is unlikely to applaud.