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Minister of Petroleum Hardeep Singh Puri on Friday backed the taxes on petrol and diesel saying such levies funded government schemes to provide free Covid vaccines, meals and cooking gas to millions amid the pandemic.

This statement comes in the backdrop of opposition parties' demand from the Centre to cut taxes on fuel. 

However, the Centre has justified the taxes saying they are needed to fund many welfare schemes. Puri today said domestic rates are linked to international oil prices, which have shot up due a variety of reasons which need to be understood.

"I think this simplistic political narrative we get in India (that), 'Prices have gone up why don't you reduce your taxes'... so every time price goes up due to something else, it says you axe your own feet in the process," he said.

The minister said that the country completed one billion vaccination, fed 90 crore people for one full year during the pandemic providing 3 meals in a day,  and did Ujjwala scheme of providing free cooking gas LPG refill to 8 crore poor beneficiaries. "All this and much more with that 32 a litre excise duty (levied by the Central government)," he said.

The money collected from tax also goes into building roads, constructing houses for the poor and other social welfare schemes. "I am not the finance minister therefore it is not an appropriate answer for me to give," he said on demands for cutting taxes. "That 32 a litre that we collect provides us the ability to provide all these welfare services, including 1 billion vaccines."

Hikes in prices have pushed petrol and diesel rates to record highs across the country. Petrol is priced at over 100 a litre or more in almost all major cities, while diesel is at those levels in over a dozen states and union territories (UTs).

With agency inputs 

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