Common man’s loss
Fuel prices have been showing no signs of decline. In Srinagar the petrol price is a few paise less than 90 Rupees while as it has edged past Rs 86 a litre mark in the national capital and diesel soaring above Rs 76.
The latest hike was recorded on Tuesday as Petrol and diesel prices were hiked by 35 paise per litre each. This hike took petrol price in Delhi to Rs 86.05 per litre and Rs 92.62 in Mumbai.
Fuel prices, which vary from state to state depending on local sales tax or VAT, are now at a record high in the country, prompting cries for a cut in excise duty to ease the burden on consumers.
Besides, fuel prices the cost of LPG gas has also been recording a steep increase with more than 100 Rs jump recorded in the previous week alone. At present a 14.5 kg domestic LPG gas cylinder costs 821 Rs in Srinagar with a subsidy component of Rs 94.
As like always the government has responded by blaming the price hike on curtailed oil output by Saudi Arabia. The country has pledged additional voluntary output cuts of 1 million barrels per day in February and March, which has led to price climbing to most since the pandemic broke out.
State-owned fuel retailers — Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) — had on January 6, resumed daily price revision after nearly a month-long hiatus. Since then the prices have been recording an increase every alternate day with the end users facing the heat.
Since Jan 6 rates have gone up by Rs 2.34 a litre on petrol and Rs 2.36 in case of diesel. Though the price rise was witnessed after international oil prices firmed up in hopes of demand returning from the rollout of coronavirus vaccines in different countries, including India.
Prior to the current high crude prices triggered the price hikes this month, fuel prices had last touched record high on October 4, 2018. At that time the government had cut excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 1.50 per litre in a bid to ease inflationary pressure and boost consumer confidence.
However, this time, there are no indications of a duty cut so far. Even Union Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan remained non-committal on tax cuts.
The fuel prices are rising too fast and even though the economy is officially in recession, the fresh hike means additional burden for a common man. And as the economy is showing little signs of recovery, the earnings for the common man have dried up tremendously and the price rise is only adding to his woes.
While the government is claiming a steep rise in GST and other tax collections, the government should have for the time being avoided any fuel price hike. Besides, it should have announced a cut in some tax rates so that some benefit could have reached the common man who is ending up as the main loser in this process.