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No respite as Centre hikes fuel prices again

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  4 Aug 2016 12:00 AM GMT

To ‘compensate losses' suffered by Oil PSUs due to State specific duties, Central government hikes petrol, diesel and LPG prices

* From June 4 Due to Assam VAT Petrol Price increased by Rs. 0.73
* From June 4 Due to Assam VAT Diesel Price increased by Rs. 1.62
* Petrol Price on 31 July (upto midnight) - Rs. 62.81 Per Litre
* Diesel Price on 31 July (upto midnight) - Rs. 56.53 Per Litre
* Petrol Price on 1st Aug (from midnight) - Rs. 61.69 Per Litre
* Diesel Price on 1st Aug (from midnight) - Rs. 54.46 Per Litre
* At present petrol price - Guwahati - Rs. 63.85 Per Litre
(Petrol Price increased by Rs 2.16 due to state specific duty)
* At present Diesel price - Guwahati - Rs 55.23
(Diesel price increased by Rs 0.77 due to state specific duty.)

BY OUR STAFF REPORTER

GUWAHATI, Aug 3: When it comes to fuel prices, the government is taking away with the left hand what it occasiolly gives to harried consumers with the right hand.

And so it happened on August 1 midnight, when the Central government suddenly hiked prices of petrol by Rs 2.16 per litre and diesel by Rs 0.77 per litre. Even LPG was not spared, its price raised by Rs 5 per cylinder. The move will hit hard consumers in Assam and a few other states.

Only three days back, oil marketing PSUs had announced a cut in retail prices of petrol and diesel. Consumers in Assam, already impacted by rising fuel prices as a consequence of the State government’s decision last month to increase VAT rates on a range of commodities — were elated at the fuel price respite on 31 July midnight. But their relief lasted barely 24 hours as prices rose again.

On Wednesday in Guwahati city, one litre of petrol cost Rs 63.85 while one litre of diesel cost Rs 55.23. Only last Sunday, thanks to the fuel price cuts which came into effect from July 31 midnight, petrol and diesel in Guwahati were costing Rs 61.69 and 54.46 respectively. But the respite turned out to be short lived.

Sources said the tax was increased under State specific duty. Their explation is that prices of fuel and LPG have now been increased ‘to compensate losses’ suffered by oil companies due to State tax. As per information available, the high prices of fuels and LPG will prevail in the next 10 months and after the period, it will again be reviewed by the Central government.

When this reporter contacted the State Tax department, the officials feigned ignorance on the whole issue, but stated that they are looking into why the prices of petrol, diesel and LPG have increased suddenly. The officials concerned said six other States have also witnessed rise in fuel prices recently, and they are in touch with oil marketing companies and other such agencies on this issue.

Sharp rise in prices of essential commodities have hit Assam’s burgeoning middle class hard and the poor hardest, despite the BJP’s ‘achche din’ slogan since the rendra Modi-led NDA came to power at the Centre in 2014 with a massive mandate. And though the Sarbanda Sonowal-led BJP alliance piggybacked to power in Dispur this year on its slogan for ‘parivartan’, the prices of essential items are yet to fall.

In the first cabinet meeting of the Sonowal government held on June 27, VAT on petrol, diesel and several other commodities was hiked. Earlier, the common consumer was given Rs 14 as subsidy for each LPG cylinder, but it was withdrawn by the new State government. Due to VAT increase, per litre of petrol and diesel prices were hiked by Rs 0.73 and Rs 1.62 respectively, which came into effect from July 4 midnight. Now these have become even more expensive.

Rising prices of commodities which have a higher weight in the consumption basket of common households is an issue that can’t be ignored. One of the main reasons behind spiraling prices of essential commodities is the continuing rise in prices of petrol, diesel and LPG in the State. High fuel prices automatically raise transportation costs, which in turn push up costs of other essential items including pulses, vegetables and other foodstuffs, creating an additiol burden on the general population.

And thus, expectations of benefit of lesser fuel prices being passed on to consumers have been belied again and again by Central and State governments.

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