With petrol prices in the country breaching the Rs 100 per litre mark, petrol pump owners have claimed there is no issue with regards to display and billing of the commodity in three digits as most pumps in the country are already upgraded with digital billing system.
In Ganganagar district of Rajasthan, prices shot up to Rs 100.13 per litre for non-branded petrol on February 17. The prices of branded petrol had already breached the Rs 100 level a fortnight ago. A host of other cities in Rajasthan as well as Madhya Pradesh are also on the verge of crossing into three-digit values. In Madhya Pradesh's Rewa, for example, a litre of petrol was being sold at Rs 99.57 per litre. The rising prices have raised concerns whether dealer stuck with old pumps would be able to display and more importantly charge and bill consumers with three-digit values. The dealers association has however played down any such concerns.
"This is a very small issue. Most of the pumps in the country today are digital and there is no such concern with them at all. In some cases where old pumps are in operation, the new rates can be easily displayed and communicated with stickers," said Ajay Bansal, president, All India Petroleum Dealers Association (AIPDA). "There are three separate displays on the pump for the current price per litre, quantity of fuel being filled and the overall cost which the customer needs to pay. The third display was anyway capable of four digits so it does not make any difference."
Global crude oil prices have risen sharply in the last few weeks and are now close to $ 63 per barrel due to a host of factors including low production by oil producing countries in the Middle East and hopes of a strong rebound in global economy with COVID vaccination across countries. This is further fuelled by hopes of an announcement of a bumper stimulus package in the US. This has seen retail prices of petrol in Delhi rise by Rs 2.59 per litre since February 9 and Rs 5.84 per litre since the start of the year. Prices of diesel have also gone up by Rs 6.08 per litre since January 1.
Retail prices of fuel in India were already high due to high taxes. In this fiscal alone, excise duties on petrol have been increased by Rs 13 per litre and on diesel by Rs 16 per litre. Dealers say the high prices are also a burden on them as it is on consumers.
"The government has turned us into tax collectors when we are actually only sellers of petrol and diesel. We face the anger of the consumers everyday as the government does not get to face them, but we do," Bansal said. "Also, we do not get any additional revenue from it as our dealer margins are static and not ad valorem. Instead our costs go up as some oil always evaporates in the business and the more expensive it gets, the greater is that cost for us."