News18 India‘s Managing Editor Kishore Ajwani conducted an exclusive interview with Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas with the main theme centered around the government’s decision to reduce the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders for domestic use by Rs 200 per cylinder.
The interview, according to a media statement from News18 India, unveiled significant insights into the context, rationale and implications of the decision.
Puri began by addressing questions about the timing of Prime Minister Modi’s decision to lower LPG prices. He asserted that the Opposition’s concerns regarding the timing need not overshadow the significance of the decision itself.
Stressing the democratic nature of the government, the Minister underscored that the decision was taken in honour of the Rakshabandhan festival, symbolizing the government’s commitment to the welfare of India’s sisters.
Highlighting the transformative journey of access to LPG, Puri illuminated the evolution from a time when 45 percent of India’s population lacked LPG access before 2014. This stark reality has evolved into a commendable achievement, with the total number of LPG connections growing from 14 crore to 32 crore in 2023, he added.
The ‘Ujwala Yojana’ scheme stands out as a cornerstone of this achievement, benefiting 9.60 crore beneficiaries who receive a direct Rs. 200 subsidy.
Puri further revealed that even those not covered by the scheme would now enjoy a reduced cylinder price of Rs. 900 from the earlier Rs. 1100, while Ujwala Yojana beneficiaries would be entitled to LPG cylinders at an astonishingly affordable Rs. 700. Future plans to expand the Ujjwala Yojana by approximately 75 lakh connections underscore the government’s resolute mission to ensure universal LPG access.
When queried about the potential reduction of petrol and diesel prices, the Minister responded with an emphasis on fair comparisons. He raised questions concerning non-BJP states’ reluctance to reduce VAT in response to the central government’s reduction of central cess. The minister detailed a pattern of global petrol and diesel price increases, contrasting it with India’s remarkable feat of reducing petrol prices by 5 percent and diesel prices by 0.28 percent over the past two years.
He then engaged in a state-by-state analysis, drawing attention to the difference in petrol and diesel prices between BJP and non-BJP states. The significant variance in VAT rates painted a compelling picture, with petrol prices differing by up to Rs.11.85 and diesel prices by Rs. 10.67 rupees.
Expanding the horizon, he embarked on an international comparison spanning neighbouring countries. He referred to the data showcasing India’s praiseworthy position of reducing petrol prices by 5 percent while its neighbours experienced notable increases, ranging from 24.91 percent to 50.56 percent.
Even on the global stage, the USA encountered a substantial 43.33 percent rise in petrol prices, in stark contrast to India’s reduction. Similarly, Germany and France, as major G20 countries, witnessed price increases of 18.56 percent and 22.56 percent respectively.
The discourse extended to diesel prices, revealing India’s 0.28 percent reduction against Sri Lanka’s 87.25 percent surge and the USA’s 36.70 percent increase. Mr. Puri also highlighted the government’s visionary steps in reducing LPG cylinder prices, benefitting each citizen by 200 rupees and Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries by 400 rupees, a testament to Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to the welfare of the people.
Addressing concerns about election-driven motives, he firmly articulated that elections are inherent to India’s democratic fabric and are independent of policy decisions. The LPG price reduction, a gesture of benevolence to women, aligned with the broader initiatives of women’s empowerment, extended maternity leave, and the abolition of triple talaq.