Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan remained non-committal on Thursday on cutting excise duty on petrol and diesel, which have touched record highs, saying the government was keeping a close watch on the situation.
Petrol price rose to Rs 71.56 per litre in Delhi on Thursday, the highest since August 2014. Rates in Mumbai are almost touching Rs 80.
Diesel prices soared to their highest level of Rs 62.25 per litre in Delhi. It is being sold at Rs 66.30 in Mumbai, where the local sales tax or VAT rates are higher.
At an industry event, replying to reporters’ questions on rising fuel prices, Pradhan said the Centre had in October cut excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 2 per litre.
Some states had followed it by reducing VAT. “Some others are yet to do that. I would urge states to reduce taxes,” he said.
Asked if the Centre would cut excise duty, he said, “We are keeping a close watch on the pricing situation.”
He said it was not under his ministry’s purview to revises taxes. “It comes under finance ministry,” he said.
He however side-stepped the query whether his ministry has suggested to the finance ministry to reduce excise duty.
Petrol and diesel prices have been on the rise since December 15, 2017. Diesel in Delhi on that day was priced at Rs 58.34, and in past one month has risen by Rs 3.91. Petrol price had during the period risen by Rs 2.49, according to oil companies.
Two of the most traded benchmarks on crude oil globally have risen the most since December 2014 – Brent touched $70 a barrel last week and WTI reached $64.77.
The rally in oil prices has renewed calls to the government to cut excise duty to cushion burden on common man.
The BJP-led NDA government has during its tenure cut excise duty only once – by Rs 2 per litre in October 2017 when petrol price had reached Rs 70.88 per litre in Delhi and diesel was priced at Rs 59.14.
Because of the excise duty cut, diesel prices had on October 4, 2017 come down to Rs 56.89 and petrol to Rs 68.38. However, subsequent rally has wiped away all the gains and prices have touched new highs.
The October 2017 excise duty cut cost the government Rs 26,000 crore in annual revenue and about Rs 13,000 crore during the remaining part of the current fiscal year that ends on March 31, 2018.
The government had between November 2014 and January 2016 raised excise duty on petrol and diesel on nine occasions to take away gains arising from plummeting global oil prices.
In all, duty on petrol was hiked by Rs 11.77 per litre and that on diesel by 13.47 a litre in those 15 months that helped government’s excise mop-up more than double to Rs 242,000 crore in 2016-17 from Rs 99,000 crore in 2014-15.
State-owned oil companies in June last year dumped the 15-year old practice of revising rates on 1st and 16th of every month and instead adopted a dynamic daily price revision to instantly reflect changes in cost. Rates during the first fortnight starting June 16 dropped but have been on the rise since July 4.
Since then prices are revised on daily basis. On Thursday, price of petrol went up by 17 paisa per litre and that of diesel by 19 paisa.