International oil prices rose after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies (OPEC+) ignored India’s plea to ease production control. However, the government may surprise consumers with a sharp cut in excise duty on petrol and diesel to tame the rising prices of auto fuels in India.
Sources privy to the development said that the duty cut may be as high as Rs 8 per litre on the two fuels so that consumers are provided immediate relief.
“The revenue projection from the oil sector for FY22 gives the government room to cut excise duty on petrol and diesel sharply to provide immediate relief to consumers. This is being examined and a call may be taken soon,” a government official was quoted as saying by news agency IANS.
Brent crude, the most widely used benchmark, on Friday rose nearly 1% to $67.44 a barrel after the OPEC+ agreed not to increase supplies in April awaiting more substantial recovery in demand.
Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had in the run-up to Thursday’s OPEC meeting urged the producers’ group to ease production curbs to fulfil their promise of stable oil prices, citing that rising international oil prices were hurting economic recovery and demand. Earlier this week, Pradhan had said that India, where fuel demand is recovering to pre-pandemic levels, wants reasonable and responsible oil prices.
India is the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer, importing about 85% of its oil needs, and local retail rates in the country are benchmarked to international prices. India had supported the decision of OPEC+ to cut production last year in view of the oil demand collapsing due to the spread of Covid-19.
“At that point in time, the producers, especially OPEC, had assured the global market that by the beginning of 2021, demand will be coming back and production will be as usual. But I am sorry to say the production is yet to be normal,” he said. “If you do not supply properly, if there is a gap in demand and supply artificially (created), there is a price rise.”
The average price of crude oil India imports was less than $50 per barrel between April and December 2020 and comparable to the 2019-20 average rate of $60.47 in months thereafter. However, retail petrol and diesel prices are at historic highs now as the government has so far not rolled back the taxes it levied when prices plummeted almost a year back, and would rise further if the oil companies decide to pass on the surge in international oil prices to consumers.
In view of the economic disruption caused by the pandemic and the need to raise resources to meet additional expenditure needs for relief measures, the Centre had raised excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 13 and Rs 16 per litre respectively March 2020 and May 2020. This measure itself would have mobilised an additional Rs 2,25,000 crore revenue for the Centre in FY21.
In February 2021, the pump prices of the two auto fuels increased 14 times, taking up petrol prices by Rs 4.22 per litre to Rs 91.17 a litre and diesel by Rs 4.34 per litre to Rs 81.47 a litre in Delhi. The record taxes coupled with international rates returning to pre-Covid levels on resurrecting demand have meant that petrol has crossed the Rs 100 mark in some places in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
According to a report prepared by ICICI Securities, excise duty on auto fuels is estimated at Rs 4.35 lakh crore in FY22, if there is no cut in excise duty on the two products, as against the budget estimate of Rs 3.2 lakh crore.
“Thus, even if excise duty is cut by Rs 8.5 per litre on or before April 1, the FY22 budget estimate can be met. We are optimistic of excise duty cut given demand recovery, impending privatisation and inflation concerns but expect it to be more modest than Rs 8.5 per litre,” the brokerage firm said in its report.
Government officials agreed that there is room to cut duty but its quantum may be decided later this month ahead of the start of the new financial year.
With a pickup in demand in various industrial sectors including consumption of fuels, the expectation is that revenue would balance out even if there is a duty cut. However, sources said that the government would weigh the decision to cut excise duty against additional expenses that it may require towards another dose of stimulus measure in FY22 and also the need to meet GST compensation shortfall for states.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has asked India to use the oil it bought at rock bottom rates last year. Responding to a question on India’s pleas, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman at a press conference after the OPEC+ decision on Thursday said that New Delhi should take some of the crude out of storage that they had purchased “very cheaply last year”.
India had purchased 16.71 million barrels of crude in April-May, 2020 and filled all the three Strategic Petroleum Reserves created at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Mangalore and Padur in Karnataka. The average cost of that crude purchase was $19 per barrel, according to Pradhan’s written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on 21 September 2020.
The basket of crude oil India imported in February averaged $61.22 per barrel and $54.79 in January this year. It had fallen to $19.90 in April last year and was between $40 and $49 during June and December.
OPEC+, which is currently reining in about 7 million barrels per day of production—about 7% of pre-pandemic supply—has helped engineer a nearly 80% rise in the Dated Brent benchmark since November. Saudi Arabia has taken a voluntary extra 1 million bpd production cut in February and March.
With agency inputs
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NHAI nod to build 80-km stretch under Greenfield Corridor, Haryana to acquire 480 hectares for project
In a bid to strengthen transportation facilities and infrastructure the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) continues to construct and develop new highways across the country which is likely to create new opportunities for trade as well as commoners. In this series, the Union government has given nod to the construction of the Greenfield Corridor of 1600 kilometres valued at 35500 crores. It is pertinent to mention that the Greenfield Corridor will pass through the Ambala district of Haryana as a stretch of around 80 kilometres falls in Haryana. The construction of the controlled-access Greenfield Shamli-Ambala highway is to be constructed under Bharatmala Pariyojana giving another direct six-lane access between Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and further leading to Punjab. The process of acquisition of this project of the Terai belt is under process in Haryana.
Divulging the issue pertaining to this, RP Singh, a senior official of NHAI said that the government has given approval to the construction of this highway valued at around 35500 crores and 80 kilometres of the same falls in Haryana. Constructing search corridors will save new paths of development undoubtedly as well as new job opportunities for commoners. In this series, it is worth stating that a huge amount of rupees 2400 crore will be spent in two phases on this stretch falling in Haryana under this project. Besides, 480 hectares of land will be acquired and the process for the same has begun. It also came to light that this corridor aims to strengthen transportation as well as the movement of commercial activities in three states as no such corridor has been constructed either from North to East or East to North in this zone. Although there are many highways constructed while going from Delhi to Jammu, Kashmir, Punjab, and Himachal. Contrary to this no such highway does exist while going from Punjab to Uttar Pradesh or vice versa. The Greenfield corridor will have a width of 60 meters from starting and ending. Besides, it is a noticeable fact that bringing such new corridors is most likely to pave a new path for development and employment along with the promotion of tourism in the areas around the corridor. With an investment of aforesaid huge amount, the 1600 km-long highway is most likely to transform the road infrastructure and transportation of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Besides, it will be a blend of road infrastructure of global standards along environment-friendly roads and industry-friendly approaches.
ED TO QUIZ TMC LEADER ABHISHEK IN KOLKATA
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Abhishek Banerjee and his wife Rujira Banerjee in Kolkata instead of Delhi.
A bench of Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia said the ED has to give at least 24 hours prior notice to the couple before interrogation and simultaneously a notice shall be issued to the Commissioner of Police and Chief Secretary of Kolkata. The Supreme Court in an interim order stayed Delhi High Court March 11 order by which Banerjees’ pleas against the issuance of summons by the ED were dismissed.
If the ED interrogates Abhishek Banerjee and his wife in Kolkata, the apex court has stated that it will not allow any form of state meddling or obstruction.
The Supreme Court also issued notice to the ED on Banerjees’ appeal against the High Court order and sought a response within three weeks and posted the matter for hearing on July 19. The State of West Bengal assured the Supreme Court that complete assistance shall be rendered by West Bengal to ED officials.
The apex court further said that in case there is any interference, the ED shall approach the vacation court of the Supreme Court.
The West Bengal government has assured that in case any complaint is filed against ED officials no coercive action will be initiated, noted SC in its order. The ED is conducting the investigation in a money-laundering probe, linked to an alleged coal scam in West Bengal, in which the agency had issued summons to the Banerjee couple.
Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, had told the apex court that he is ready to be probed by the ED in Kolkata.
The Banerjees have contested the ED’s summons to appear in court in connection with a money laundering investigation into a purported coal scam in West Bengal.
They have asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the summons and prevent the ED from requesting their attendance in Delhi for questioning. They argued that the ED might examine them in Kolkata and requested a stay on the High Court’s judgement.
The petitioners have requested the Supreme Court to rule on whether the ED has the authority to call people from all over India to Delhi.
POSTERS SURFACE IN BASIRHAT, RESIDENTS DECLARE ACTRESS-TURNED TMC MP NUSRAT JAHAN ‘MISSING’
When the residents of Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency woke up on Wednesday, they saw posters screaming “MP of Basirhat Missing” pasted all around, leaving them wondering whose handiwork it could be. Though, few would have disagreed with the contents of the posters. For, the Bengali actress-turned-politician has been more visible for controversies of late than for working for the people of her constituency.
The Trinamool Congress MP is rather inaccessible to the residents of her own constituency. When they try to approach MP Nusrat to relate their problems and seek redress to them, sometimes four to five times, they are turned down, say locals. The posters are an expression of popular anger and disillusionment with the MP, they say, which is only growing with time. One such poster could be seen in Champatla panchayat area of Chaylap Haroa assembly segment.
“Basirhat MP Nusrat Jahan is missing, I want to find her,” read the poster.
Sources say the posters have been put up by Trinamool Congress workers of the constituency, showing the disaffection and anger among them for which the MP has to blame none other than herself.
The local party leaders, though, would blame the opposition parties for running such slanderous poster campaign against their MP.
Humayun Reza Chowdhury, head of the Degangar Champatla Panchayat, said, “Haji Nurul Islam was the MP of Basirhat from 2009 to 2014. The grassroots activists got him elected from among the common people and all the development work in the area was done by him. But now the Trinamool MP is not available. That’s why people in the area have put out such posters.”
Apart from her absence from and inaccessibility to the people of her constituency, there some more reasons behind the growing popular dissent against her. She was not a popular choice when she was declared a candidate by TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee. Yet Nusrat Jahan was voted to become their MP in 2019 parliamentary elections. Then, Nusrat Jahan has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. She hit the headlines when she married Nikhil Jain in Turkey in June 2019. The marriage did not last and they parted ways in 2021. It turned out that Jahan had married under Turkish law and did not register her marriage under the Special Marriage Act in India and the marriage was, in fact, a live-in relationship, according to her own admission last year.
Tension in Punjab over ‘conversion’ of Guru’s inn into mosque
The case of converting Guru ki Sarai into a mosque in Gujjara locality in Rajpura, Punjab, has gained momentum and police force has been deployed in the tehsil premises.
On Monday, the matter was heard in front of the SDM during which people of the Muslim-Sikh community were present. People from the Hindu community were also present.
This inn was given the form of a gurdwara. The Hindu side says that earlier people of Hindu and Sikh society used to serve here. After sometime, it was converted into a mosque without anyone’s consent and permission. The Hindu organizations have also protested against this incident.
SDM Himanshu Gupta says that the police force has been deployed to ensure that law and order situation does not deteriorate. This matter has been in discussion for many days.
The Hindu side alleges that people gather here every day at the time of Namaz. Also, the sound of loudspeaker causes trouble to the common people.
During the hearing, a large number of people including Punjab Dharmacharya, head of Gau Raksha Dal, Satish Kumar had reached. As the number of people increased, the police also increased their security arrangements to prevent any untoward incident.
On the other hand, RCFAI, a Kerala-based organization, had built three more mosques in the same district in 2019. After this the intelligence agencies were alerted. According to the report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, mosques have been built in districts adjoining Punjab with terror funding.
IGP URGES KASHMIRI PANDITS NOT TO LEAVY VALLEY, FOIL ENEMY’S PLAN
Kashmir Inspector General of Police (IGP) Vijay Kumar on Tuesday said that killings of Kashmiri Pandits are plans to push them out of Kashmir.
Vijay Kumar, who met the protesting Kashmiri Pandits at Sheikhpora village in Budgam, and urged them not to think of leaving Kashmir as the “same was plans of militants and their masters across” that has to be foiled by all means.
“Shortcomings in security grid will be addressed very soon and at the same time we will eradicate terrorism. I assure you (Kashmiri Pandits) of every help and better and enhanced security cover in the days ahead.”
Assuring the protesters here, he said: “Everyone including police, army and even local people will have to fight against terrorism. I urge the protesters not to do anything that will make our enemy successful. To push you out of Kashmir is the plan of militants and their masters which has to be foiled you and us collectively.”
The IGP said attacking the Kashmiri Pandit community is a ploy of the terrorists to drive them out of Kashmir which “we will never allow to succeed.”
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Police along with security forces have arrested two terrorist associates – Zahid Ahmad Sheikh and Sahil Bashir Dar – of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Budgam.
Incriminating materials of proscribed terror outfit LeT, explosive material and ammunition including one hand grenade, two pistol magazines and 15 AK-47 rounds have been recovered from their possession
Centre to provide RFID tags to Amarnath pilgrims; drones to be deployed on yatra routes
Union Home minister Amit Shah reviews J-K security situation.
In a bid to a hassle-free Amarnath Yatra, beginning June 30 after a gap of two years, the central government on Tuesday decided to provide Radio Frequency Identification Card (RFID) to all pilgrims. The pilgrims will also be insured with Rs 5 lakh.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah during a meeting with Jammu and Kashmir LG Manoj Sinha, central government secretaries and officials from the CRPF and Home Ministry in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah chaired two separate back-to-back marathon meetings, attended by all stakeholders including Jammu and Kashmir Governor Manoj Sinha, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Intelligence Bureau Chief Arvind Kumar, on preparations for the yatra.
Resuming Amarnath pilgrimage is a challenging task as Jammu and Kashmir which has witnessed several incidences of targeted killings in last few months by terrorists following which Ministry of Home Affairs asked security agencies operating in the state to enhance counter-terror operations.
Shah said: “Hassle-free journey for the pilgrims is a priority of the Narendra Modi government. All arrangements should be made which includes creation of additional electricity, water and telecom facilities.” The Home Minister also stressed for enhancement of mobile connectivity along the yatra route as he directed that earth-moving equipment should be placed at vantage points to clear the route in case of landslides.
The Home Minister asked for an adequate number of oxygen cylinders, medical beds at an altitude of more than 6,000 feet and deployment of ambulances and helicopters to deal with any emergency medical situation.
During the meeting, it was also decided to enable Wi-Fi hotspots to ensure connectivity
throughout the 39 km yatra route from Pahalgam in South Kashmir. The other route is through Baltal in central Kashmir where a pilgrim treks for nearly 15 km.
About 12,000 paramilitary personnel (120 companies) in addition to Jammu and
Kashmir Police are expected to be deployed along the two pilgrimage routes – one from Pahalgam and the other via Baltal, officials said.
Drone cameras will help the security forces to ensure protection of the pilgrims, sources said.
Top officials of the Ministries of Health, Telecom, Road Transport, Civil Aviation, IT took part in the meeting to discuss logistics for the annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva at an altitude of 3,888 metres.
Online registration for Amarnath Yatra 2022 started from April 11 and the Home Ministry has already sanctioned nearly 50 companies of CAPF for the purpose to provide security during the pilgrimage as Jammu and Kashmir is expecting nearly five lakh pilgrims visiting the Amarnath cave shrine this year.
While online registration has already begun, the pilgrimage is scheduled to be held for 43 days between June 30 and August 11.
The J&K administration had cancelled the annual Amarnath pilgrimage due to the
prevailing Covid-19 situation in 2020 and 2021 after a discussion with Amarnathji
Shrine Board members.
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