Congress has taken out protests against the fuel price hike.
New Delhi: The government is looking at both short-term and long-term solutions to the rocketing fuel prices, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Thursday as state-run oil companies increased rates for the 11th straight day. Prices of diesel and petrol in India have surged to a record high, stoking acerbic criticism from the opposition of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration for causing hardship to people.
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Rising global crude oil prices are largely behind the surge, but fuel is also heavily taxed by state and central governments, accounting for about 40-50 percent of the retail cost of petrol and diesel.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, a leader of the BJP which rules the centre, said fuel prices will come down once the centre builds a consensus to bring petrol and diesel under the Goods and Services Tax or GST - the consolidated national tax introduced last year.
"A task force is already working on reducing the fuel prices. If it (petrol and diesel) can be brought under GST, rates will come down. Maharashtra has already given its consent for it," Mr Fadnavis said.
Opposition parties have attacked the government for the rising prices. Responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's tweet accepting a dare from cricketer Virat Kohli, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "Glad to see you accept the @imVkohli fitness challenge. Here's one from me: Reduce Fuel prices or the Congress will do a nationwide agitation and force you to do so."
As a mark of protest, members of the Congress today travelled in a horse-drawn carriage in Goa's Panaji. For about an hour, Congress leaders went around the district collectorate in the horse carriage, before submitting a memorandum to the Chief Minister's Office.
On Sunday, the day of the seventh hike, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan promised a "solution" soon. The details of the plan, however, were scarce. "I accept that people of India and especially the middle-class families have to suffer a lot due to price hike of oil. It's not in our hand... The Indian government will soon come out with a solution," he had said.
The minister blamed falling oil production in OPEC countries and the US pull-out from the Iran nuclear deal for the spike. Analysts have also attributed the ceaseless slide to that of the rupee against the dollar. On Thursday, the rupee, at 68.31 versus the dollar, was not far from an all-time low of 68.87, recorded in November 2016.
Prices have gone up by Rs 2.84 a litre in case of petrol and Rs 2.60 in diesel since May 14 when the 19-day hiatus due to the Karnataka state elections ended.
The centre had in June last year junked the 15-year old practice of revising rates every fortnight and introduced daily revisions based on international markets and exchange rates.