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Fuel price can be kept low - if there is a will

Fuel price can be kept low - if there is a will

After a hiatus, fuel prices have started rising again. In a matter of five days, petrol price has gone up by Rs 3.45 and diesel by Rs 3.34 per liter, which indicates one thing: fuel prices are going to rise at such rates that the benefit of the brief interregnum without price hikes is not going to be available to the people for long. The case of cooking gas is no different. This also proves that the steady of 137 days was not aimed at people's welfare. Many had warned that the prices were frozen in the run-up to the elections in five state assemblies and that there would be hike immediately after the results, a forecast deemed plausible by the people too. And now the series of price hikes is proving beyond that all those forecasts were correct and the price freeze was a decision to reap gain in the polls and far from driven by the urge to comfort consumers. Two other facts also become emerge from this. The justification given by the government for hiking fuel prices, even during the financial stringency durig the Covid crisis was that fuel price determination was beyond the government's control. But now it has become evident that if the government has a will, prices can be kept steady and all arguments to the contrary are hollow. Secondly, regardless of whether the government can influence price determination or not, it can mitigate the burden of the people by reducing excise duty and taxes. Just as the government was able to keep prices from rising by influencing government-controlled marketing companies, it had also been able to lighten the people's burden by slashing excise levy and tax during the Diwali period.

It was during the 137-day hiatus of price increase that the steepest rise of global crude oil prices of recent times happened. During the first week of November, the price of crude was around USD 73 per barrel. After a steady climb from that level, it reached USD 130 per barrel with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but fuel price in India did not go up. Subsequently crude price registered a fall after that; but now fuel prices are being increased. This gives a simple inference that if the government has the will, fuel price can be held in check without rising, and if it lacks the will, there will be price rise. Just as the earlier argument was proven false, there is one more fact that emerges from this: the government having a will or not is not determined by the people's interest, but by the government's political interest in election. In other words, people are being deceived during the election.

There are enough rules and precedents in place aimed at ensuring the fairness of elections. The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is one of them. Once the Election Commission declares the polling schedule, there is a list of actions not permitted until results are fully released. The objective is to ensure equal opportunity for the government and rival parties. One main part of the MCC is particularly intended to prevent illegal actions including devious vote catching by using the government's use of power. In an election, it is imperative that neither the opposition is at a disadvantage due to not having power, nor the government enjoys undue advantage on account of wielding power. But now it has become clear that in the matter of fuel prices, freezing the price during election to derive undue advantage was a trickery used by the government, and therefore the Election Commission is entitled to seek an explanation from the government. Through the MCC, declaring freebies and concession can be forbidden. But, it cannot prevent freezing prices, nor is it necessary to do that. At the same time, it should be possible to hold the price at a level that prevailed when the MCC is in force for a few more months after the election results, and in the case of hike becoming necessary, to determine its limit and proportion.

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TAGS:Fuel price in India kept frozen during election crude price rise but fuel held steady Model Code of Conduct 
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