Sitharaman terms rising fuel prices ‘vexatious’ issue, says Centre and state govts should talk – The Indian Express

Terming the fuel price rise a “vexatious issue”, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Thursday said that the Centre and the states will have to come to the table in order to bring down the retail prices of petrol and diesel to a reasonable level.

“It’s a very vexatious issue in which no answer except for reducing the price (of fuel) will convince anyone. I know I am trading on an area where whatever I may say to bring the reality into picture will only sound like I’m obfuscating, I’m avoiding the answer, I am shifting the blame…,” she told reporters.

She said that in such a situation no minister can ever convince anybody. “Because Indians being Indians, and I am one of them, we’ll immediately stand up and say, all this is apart, are you reducing the price today or not?”

Fuel prices in India have been steadily rising in the past few months with petrol price touching an all-time high of Rs 97 per litre in Mumbai while diesel rate crossing Rs 88-mark on Saturday.

According to a price notification of state-owned fuel retailers, petrol price was hiked by record 39 paise per litre and diesel by 37 paise a litre. This was the 12th straight day of rise in prices and the largest daily increase since oil companies started to revise rates on a daily basis in 2017. The increase pushed the price of petrol to Rs 90.58 and that of diesel to Rs 80.97 per litre each in Delhi.

Stating that she can still repeat every reason behind such a rise, Sitharaman said, “It is a matter of fact that both the Centre and the states will have to talk.”

She further said that it would be no good if the Centre gains a moral high ground by bringing down the excise at zero. Because, she reasoned, there would be no guarantee that central taxes forgone will not be an opportunity for others (states) to derive benefit out of that.

“I have no problem with that, they are also part of the country. States can take that advantage… But if all of us are talking about consumer price coming down, the tax raised by the Centre and the tax raised by states are not holier than one another. They are equally issues that all of us don’t want,” she added.

But there is a revenue generation happening by both the Centre and states, Sitharaman said. “And equally, there is a hike in the brent since November. Also, the production predicted by the OPEC countries is likely to come down, further aggravating the stress on the fuel prices,” she added.

Stating that the oil prices have technically been freed and that the government now has no control over it, she said, “It is oil marketing companies who have to say whether they want to cut it down or raise it… It is the oil marketing companies which import the crude, refine, distribute it and even put the cost for logistics…”

So, the Centre and the states have to sit together to see whether they can come with a way to ensure that the retail prices are at a reasonable level, she reiterated.

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