New Delhi: Hours after the Centre announced a Rs 2.50 per litre cut in petrol and diesel prices, the Congress party dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring the fuel prices back to the 2014 level, instead of throwing a “pittance of one or two rupees” at the public.
Briefing the regular media, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said that the cut is a result of the reduction in excise duty, ‘a panic reaction in the face of public anger” ahead of Assembly polls in four states.
“Petrol and diesel in India is sold in the range of Rs 84 to Rs 90 and Rs 75 to Rs 80 respectively (Delhi and Mumbai) but an RTI reply has revealed that the Modi government is selling petrol to 15 countries at just Rs 34 per litre and selling diesel to 29 nations at a mere Rs 37,” Surjewala said.
He said that the countries to which the fuel was being sold cheaper include the UK, Australia, Malaysia, and Israel. The opposition party also demanded to know why the government was not trying to control the skyrocketing prices of cooking gas.
Inflation in India, however, is still moderate at less than 4 per cent and higher direct tax collections give comfort with regard to fiscal deficit, he said adding domestic macroeconomic indicators are strong and stable, except for current account deficit (CAD).
The major announcement comes after Jaitley met Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan to look at options to mitigate the impact of hiking fuel prices on the economy.
Petrol prices were Thursday hiked by 15 paise a litre and diesel by 20 paise, according to price notification of state-owned oil firms.
The hike pushed petrol price in Delhi to an all-time high of Rs 84 per litre and diesel to Rs 75.45. Rates of subsidised domestic cooking gas, too, have breached the Rs 500-mark for the first time.
India is the third largest importer of crude oil and rising international oil prices are inflating domestic transport fuel costs in a strong demand environment. Brent, the benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, is trading at a four-year high of over USD 84 per barrel.
Rupee Thursday dropped to 73.77 against the dollar, resulting in expensive crude imports.
(With agency inputs)