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September 12, 2018

Dr Amit Mitra speaks after Bangla decreases fuel prices

Dr Amit Mitra speaks after Bangla decreases fuel prices

Soon after the Bangla Government announced a Re. 1 reduction in State taxes on petrol and diesel on Tuesday, State Finance Minister Amit Mitra explained a few points and raised some questions on why the Central Government was not taking any steps to check fuel price rise.

The FM said the Central Govt had increased excise duty as many as nine times. For petrol, it had gone up from Rs. 9.48 to Rs 19.48 per litre, a Rs 10 hike during their regime. Diesel went up by Rs. 11.77 during their regime, but State Governments like West Bengal in particular did not change its sales tax or its cess on fuel. “That is something the public must know. There is no election coming up in the State. Mamata Banerjee has still reduced the price by Re. 1 per litre. It is just an empathetic move for the consumers, indicating that ‘we are with you’. It’s a heartfelt gesture,” Dr Mitra said.

He further explained, “There is no VAT in our State. It’s Sales Tax and cess together. When the international crude oil prices fell from Rs 104 a barrel to Rs 33 a barrel, the Central Government did not even have the gumption to create a buffer stock. They did not create a fuel price stabilization fund. What kind of Central Government is this? Now, they continue to increase the fuel price, while the rupee has been escalating compared to the dollar…all this shows that it’s an uncontrolled government.”

Mamata Banerjee today gave an indication, a clear signal that her Government was with the common people. Dr Mitra said it was important to note that there was no election coming up in Bangla and therefore the move was not a gimmick. This is an empathetic reaction to the Central Government’s refusal to cut fuel prices or even halt the daily increase.

He pointed out that what a mature government would have done was to create a fuel price stabilization fund. “When the price of Brent crude was low and you have a difference, you collect the money, create a fund, so that when prices start going up, you are able to create a condition to control and stabilize prices. States do not buy crude. It’s the Central Government which is involved in crude. I want to know and the people of India want to know why the Modi Government did not create a price stabilization fund? It’s because they have no idea, no sense of governance.”

The Union petroleum minister, Mr Dharmendra Pradhan, had a few weeks back said he wanted the State finance ministers to back the move to put petroleum products under a 28 per cent GST. “But why have the Finance Ministers from the BJP States not raised the inclusion of petroleum products in the GST Council? The largest number of ministers is from the BJP States. Most people don’t know that petroleum products are supposed to be a part of the GST. The GST Council just wanted the system to stabilize before it could include the prices of fuel under GST. The Union minister wants the process started, but why has he not ordered the BJP Finance Ministers to come to the Council and say so? One must realize that when GST stabilizes, the Council in its wisdom will take up the matter.”

Until this happens, the states will suffer. In 2017-18, the total loss to the states was Rs 43,000 crores! In July-August, the states lost Rs 13,000 crores. Let the GST Council meet, and with the two-thirds majority of the BJP, let the wisdom of inclusion prevail, given these losses.
Explaining how, at a time like this, Rs 28 crores was being allotted to Puja committees this year by the Bangla Government, the Finance Minister said there was no question of any appeasement of any community. He emphasized that Durga Puja was a social phenomenon in Bengal, where members of one community took part in the celebrations of other communities. “It is a celebration of life where every individual is involved in the Puja. It involves social developmental processes. The themes of the Pujas are social projects in the State, like Kanyashree, and the successful Self Help Groups. So this is just a small token of celebrating life across communities, and everybody has welcomed this gesture by Mamata Banerjee.”