New Delhi: While admitting that the historical rise in fuel prices across the country was a problem, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said that the government is saving money to spend on welfare schemes, where expenses have mounted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement indicates that the government may not be looking at reducing tax levies on petrol and diesel anytime soon in order to cool off the prices. "I accept that fuel prices are pinching consumers, there's no doubt about this," said Pradhan.
"But over Rs 35,000 crore has been spent on Covid vaccines in a year. Rs 1 lakh crore has been spent on Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana in order to provide eight months' ration to the poor. A few thousand crores of rupees have also been transferred to farmers' bank accounts under PM Kisan…In such dire times, we're saving money to spend on welfare schemes," the minister told reporters on June 13.
Commenting on the backlash elicited by the Modi government from the Opposition over rise in fuel prices, Pradhan said that if Congress-ruled governments in Rajasthan and Maharashtra were "that concerned about the burden on the common man," they should cut sales tax. On being asked to comment on the repeated attacks by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on the Modi government, the Petroleum Minister said, "Rahul Gandhi must answer why fuel prices are high in Congress-ruled states like Punjab, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. If he is so concerned about the poor, he should instruct the Maharashtra CM to reduce taxes, as fuel prices are very high in Mumbai."
However, Pradhan didn't comment on whether BJP-ruled states, like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, where petrol has crossed the Rs-100 mark, would follow suit.
Fuel prices differ across states due to the local taxes levied, like VAT and freight charges. At present, petrol costs over Rs 100 per litre in seven states and Union Territories — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana and Ladakh. Out of these, Congress is the ruling party in Rajasthan and is a coalition partner along with Shiv Sena and NCP in Maharashtra. BJP is in power in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, while Ladakh is under Central rule. Andhra Pradesh has a YSR Congress government and Telangana has TRS in power.
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