India's main opposition party Congress has urged the federal government not to profiteer on oil prices and pass on the benefits of the low crude prices to the consumers, who are already badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The party has advised the government to go for a "healing touch" rather than the "stealing touch" - referring to the Indian government's practice of raising the excise duty on petroleum every time crude oil prices fall, thereby pocketing the gains.
Russia called for leaving output cuts at the previously agreed levels, while Saudi Arabia and its allies suggested that additional cuts be made, in a move that was followed by the Saudi Energy Ministry’s decision to boost the kingdom’s daily production capacity to 13 million barrels of oil from the current 12 million barrel level.
With the crude oil prices coming down, the retail prices of petrol and diesel should have also come down, but this did not happen as the Indian government chose to impose higher taxes on petroleum products. Excise duties on both petrol and diesel were raised on 14 March to shore up government revenues. Congress has since then been attacking the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over higher prices, even as the global crude oil prices have plummeted.
In a press conference on Monday, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, "BJP has to realise that it has to stop this process of solo profiteering. All profits are for them, all pain is for the common man”.
The Congress also advised that the governing BJP must deploy a higher share in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
“Can't you part with even 5 percent of our Gross Domestic Product? USA parted with 10 percent and around the corner with another 5 percent, total 15 percent of their GDP. Our government cannot pocket this profit, it has to give it back to the farmers for diesel, give subsidies to farmers and migrant workers”, said Singhvi.
Oil prices plummeted to $23 per barrel as on 30 March, compared with $108 per barrel in the same month six years back.
“It is important that in the nation's economic grief, the government has to give monetary relief. It has to be the nation's monetary relief not the government's monetary relief”, Singhvi asserted.
The Congress party has been demanding a reduction in the retail prices of petrol and diesel.
Congress politician Priyanka Gandhi Vadra last month hit out against the Modi government over the high petrol and diesel prices in the country at a time when global crude oil prices are at low levels.
“Crude oil prices have decreased worldwide. But the price of petrol and diesel are increasing in India. Why are the common people not getting the benefits of the fall in the prices of crude oil?” asked Gandhi in a Tweet.