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“Petroleum products are international commodity. Whenever there is a price hike in crude oil then there are some pinching prices in our market also. India is a consumer sensitive country. We are concerned and keeping an eye,” oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Monday, giving no indication of any government intervention.
Later in the day, agency reports quoted finance secretary Hasmukh Adhia ruling out a cut in excise duty to lighten the burden of consumers. “Not as of now. Whenever we review it (excise duty cut), we will let you know,” the reports quoted Adhia as saying.
The statements came on a day when benchmark Brent crude, which makes up 28% of India’s imports, hovered near $70 a barrel after hitting this level on Friday, the first time since January. All indications are that the West’s tensions with Iran and Russia as well as reports of an impending meeting between Opec and US shale industry for ways to balance market supplies are likely to keep oil prices on the boil.
This leaves consumers at the mercy of global oil markets. Consumers feel the pinch of every cent by which crude rises immediately due to the daily price revision introduced since June last year, unlike in the past when a spike in crude prices for a day or two would not matter much due to the fortnightly revision. On Monday, both petrol and diesel prices rose to new record levels.
But Pradhan said it was time for states to agree to bring motor fuels under GST. “I appeal the GST Council that these products be included in the GST framework. Consumers should get products on a rational price in the entire country,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a function to mark supply of Bharat Stage-VI petrol and diesel in Delhi, making it the first Indian city to run on the uber-clean fuel.
The government had cumulatively hiked excise on petrol by Rs 11.77 per litre and on diesel Rs 13.47 a litre between November 2014 and January 2016 to soak up part of the benefit of tumbling global oil prices. Consumers have been steadily paying more for fuel since August 2017.