Updated March 9th, 2024 at 20:33 IST

Petroleum Min jibes ‘where was gas’ on allegations of lower LPG prices in UPA govt

Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the government also moderated prices of international oil when they shot up between 2020 and 2023.

Reported by: Business Desk
Hardeep Singh Puri | Image:PTI
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Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri opposed statements made by the Indian National Congress on providing cheaper cooking gas, countering that the pricing under the UPA regime was nowhere on the back of scarce availability, with the subsidy going to the undeserving.

The rate of cylinders during the INC-led government before 2014 was Rs 399-414 per cylinder, while the current rate for general customers is Rs 803. The rate for Ujjwala beneficiaries under the BJP is Rs 503.

Puri was addressing a press conference a day after the government slashed cooking gas LPG price by Rs 100 per 14.2-kg cylinder.

The Minister detailed how the present government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has over doubled coverage for LPG cylinders to 32.5 crore households, which includes the provision of free connections for 10.3 crore women under the Ujjwala scheme.

The government also moderated rates for international oil prices which shot up between 2020 and 2023. 85 per cent of India’s oil needs are fulfilled through imports. 

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The prices have come down to Rs 803 as a result, for every 14.2-kg cylinder in Delhi. 

As for cylinders under Ujjwala, the rate went down to Rs 503 after applying a subsidy of Rs 300 per cylinder.

"There is a new assistant professor of gas pricing university, who is talking about the subsidy given in their times. One wants to ask him, though it is no use and I would rather put it across to you the facts that in 60 years since LPG cylinders were available, the total cylinders in the country was 14 crore," he said.

Puri was responding to a post by Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala on X, wherein he labelled the price cut as an ‘election gimmick.’

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The Union Minister implied the number of cooking gas connections when he was speaking of cylinder availability.

"LPG cylinder (during Congress rule) was a scarce commodity and you had to run around to get one and you needed recommendation. There was no availability... If cylinders were not available, I would say pricing is neither here nor there. And this Rs 60,000 crore subsidy (given on LPG during Congress rule) was given to whom?" he asked.

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He also pointed out that 1.13 crore holders of cooking gas voluntarily let go of subsidy after the Prime Minister’s call in 2014-15.

"There was no gas in your times yet you gave Rs 60,000 crore subsidy. It should be investigated it went to whom," he said.

Puri also raised concerns on the fuel pricing during the UPA regime, saying the INC-led government had floated oil bonds to regulate petrol and diesel prices, which now have to be repaid with interest by the present regime. 

"This is what I call irresponsible policy making -- passing on your problem to future generations," he said.

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Surjewala said the Congress-led UPA had given Rs 1.47 lakh crore subsidy on petrol, diesel and LPG during 2013-14 which helped in making cooking gas available at Rs 399-414 per 14.2-kg cylinder.

Compared to this, he claimed the Modi government provided Rs 11,925 crore subsidy under the Ujjwala scheme. Non-Ujjwala beneficiaries pay market price for LPG.

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During the past governments, Puri said LPG was a rare commodity entailing a long wait for gas connection. 

"It was mainly available in urban areas and hardly accessible to rural India. Subsidies were often pilfered by middlemen," he said.

"Today at Rs 503 for 14.2-kg, poor in India are getting this imported essential fuel for one of the lowest prices, lower than prices in most producing nations as well," he said.

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Between June 2020 and June 2022, the Minister went on to highlight that international prices of LPG went up by almost 303 per cent, but not all of its brunt was put on consumers. 

"Domestic LPG prices increased by only 72 per cent, prices could have reached Rs 2,500 when they went up to Rs 1,100 (in August 2022)."

"Modi government ensured prices only went up marginally, leading to under recovery of Rs 28,000 crore for oil marketing companies (OMCs)," he said, adding that the government provided for a Rs 22,000 crore subsidy of this.

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In terms of petrol and diesel, Puri said the government let go of Rs 2.2 lakh crore in revenue when it slashed excise duty on the two fuels in the period between November 2021 and May 2022, in order to protect consumers from rising prices of international oil.

During the pandemic years, the government raised the excise duty on petrol by Rs 13 per litre and by Rs 16 a litre on diesel to prevent the passing on of a sharp dip in global oil prices. 

These were subsequently rolled back in two excise duty cuts in November 2021 and May 2022.

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Petrol and diesel costs less in BJP ruled states since they reduced local sales tax or VAT as well, when excise duty was slashed. 

(With PTI Inputs)

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Published March 9th, 2024 at 20:33 IST