Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Sunday said he knows the rising prices of petrol and diesel are problematic, but it can’t be brought down because the government is saving money to spend on welfare schemes. The prices of the fuels widely used in vehicles has seen a steep hike in the last few days, with petrol breaching the ₹100-mark in some cities of India.
“I accept that current fuel prices are problematic for people but be it central/state government, over ₹35,000 crore have been being spent on vaccines in a year. In such dire times, we’re saving money to spend on welfare schemes,” Pradhan was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved ₹1 lakh crore under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana scheme to give free foodgrain to the poor for eight months. Under PM-Kisan, thousands of crores have been directly deposited in the bank accounts of our farmers. The MSP was hiked recently. And all this is happening in the current year,” Pradhan added.
He also took a jibe at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who targeted the Centre over increase in fuel prices, saying if he is so concerned about it, he should ask his chief ministers in Rajasthan and Maharashtra (where the party is part of the ruling coalition) to reduce prices.
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Petrol and diesel are retailing at all-time high in many cities of the country after being hiked by ₹5.72 to ₹6.25 per litre in less than six weeks. This is due to a combination of rising international oil prices and record high central and state taxes.
Fuel prices differ from state to state depending on the incidence of local taxes such as VAT and freight charges. And because of this, petrol retails at over ₹100 per litre mark in seven states and union territories – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Ladakh.
Sri Ganganagar district of Rajasthan was the first place in the country to see petrol hit ₹100 a litre mark in mid-February and on Saturday it also earned the distinction of diesel crossing that psychological mark. Petrol in the city is sold at ₹107.22 a litre – the highest rate in the country – and diesel comes for ₹100.05.
On May 29, Mumbai became the first metro in the country where petrol was being sold at over ₹100 a litre. Petrol now costs ₹102.30 a litre in the city and diesel comes for ₹94.39.
Petrol and diesel prices have been raised on 23 occasions since May 4, when state-owned oil firms ended an 18-day hiatus in rate revision they observed during assembly elections in four states and union territory of Puducherry.