Updated on 22 Oct 2021, 12:22 pm
Representational Image (PHOTO: IFP)
Prices of petrol and diesel touched new record highs on Thursday as they were hiked for the second consecutive day across the country. In the national capital, both petrol and diesel prices were hiked by 35 paise per litre. Petrol prices in Imphal is Rs 107.83 as of 21 October 2021. In March 2020 when the pandemic first broke out, it was Rs 68.26 only per litre. But, the price continued to rise throughout the pandemic. This year, the daily rate per litre was Rs 103.01 on October 1 and Rs 105.60 on October 11. The price of diesel also continue to rise and rise, while the state government continues to remain deaf to the howls of protests from the general public and the opposition. Government sources have tried to link the price hike in petroleum products with Covid-19 freebies like free vaccination and upscaling of health infrastructure to meet the demands of the pandemic. A minister in Uttar Pradesh had stated that only a handful of people use four-wheelers and need petrol. He added that 95 per cent of the people do not need petrol, while defending the price hike. He has conveniently ignored the similar hike in diesel, which accounts for price hike in many other items. India has seen a faster recovery in the consumption of petrol than of diesel after pandemic-related restrictions with petrol consumption up 9 per cent in September compared to the year ago period but diesel consumption remaining 6.5 per cent below 2020 levels. Diesel accounts for about 38 per cent of petroleum product consumption in India and is a key fuel used in industry and agriculture.
Well, let us discuss in the context of Manipur where the taxation is extremely high. Taxes in most states range between 20-25 per cent. The highest rate of tax on fuel is in Manipur (36.50 per cent VAT), followed by Rajasthan (36 per cent VAT+ Rs 1500/KL road development cess) and Karnataka (35 per cent sales tax). The lowest tax in Andaman & Nicobar Islands at 6 per cent. No other state charges sales tax or VAT in single digit. The excise duty charged by the central government is consistent across the country. As of July 1, excise duty is Rs 32.90 per litre. When the issue was raised in the state assembly in August by the opposition, Deputy Chief Minister Y Joykumar Singh gave an assurance that the state will try to curb the rising prices of petroleum products if the situation permits. He tried to explain away the steep VAT by saying that states like Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland have greater revenue deficit grants than Manipur and therefore can have lesser VAT on petroleum products. He also said, these neighbouring states have adequate resources for revenue generation other than petroleum products, while VAT remains an importance source of revenue in Manipur. In the February session also, he had assured the House that the state will consider suggestions to review Value Added Tax (VAT) on petroleum products, in view of the current pandemic situation. But still, there is no move to lower the VAT charged on petroleum products and the hike becomes more and more steeper while the public suffers. Prices of every commodity, including vegetables have increased manifold and the poor are hit hard. But then, the opposition and general public remains in slumber except for occasional press releases and press conferences.