The Parliament Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas Affairs met on Thursday for the first time since April under its Chairman Ramesh Biduri and discussed the issue of rising fuel prices.
The Members of Parliament raised the issue of price rise and asked what the government is doing to address the issue. MPs cutting across party lines expressed their concern over the rise in prices.
Petroleum Secretary Tarun Kapoor, officials from the Ministry of Petroleum and the heads of IOC, BPCL and HPCL along with officials of GAIL were among those who attended the meeting.
When questioned, the officials of the Ministry of Petroleum said this price rise was linked to the prices of international crude oil that were constantly fluctuating. They also explained the fact that the dollar versus rupee was also fluctuating with the weakening of the rupee. They also pointed out the decision by the government to levy heavier taxes on petroleum products.
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It was also suggested that the best way to control the price rise of fuel was to bring it under GST. This was supported by the BJP MPs but opposition MPs were not in favour.
When Ramesh Biduri cited the price of petrol and diesel during the UPA regime especially during 2012, the opposition MPs countered him with the figure saying that then the price of crude oil was $140 a barrel which now stands much lower at around half of that price.
MPs also came to a consensus that there has to be a larger interest in helping the common man rather than just focusing on profiteering of the oil PSUs at the cost of the common man. Members also said that in the last few years each of these oil companies had made a huge amount of profits for themselves.
MPs were also extremely critical of the Central government on why and how the price rise is held back just before the elections to benefit the BJP.
When asked specifically as to what the government plans to do in terms of providing relief to the common man, sources say that the ministry officials did not have any response or answer.
Seven States are selling a litre of petrol at above ₹100, whereas in other States, the prices are hovering around Rs 100.
As per the records, the prices of petrol and diesel have increased over 25 times in the last month and a half. Both diesel and petrol prices have become dearer by over Rs 6 since the first week of May.
Recently, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had accepted that there is a problem because of this fuel rise. But at this time, there isn’t much government can do given the fact that a lot of money is being spent on welfare schemes, he said.
The Congress party had recently raised the issue nationally and there was a pan-India protest against the fuel price rise by the Congress on June 11.