The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Psst! A petrol home truth

June 7: The CPM need not squeeze a rollback out of Manmohan Singh. A gentle reminder to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his finance minister Asim Dasgupta should do.

When you pay Rs 51.07 for a litre of petrol in Calcutta after the Rs 4.17 hike, as much as Rs 9.34 goes to the state government as sales tax.

In other words, more than twice the amount that the Left wants the Centre to roll back flows to the state government coffers as sales tax.

Sales tax is a state subject and the Bengal government can revise the rate on its own. But while demanding that the Centre cut duty on crude oil and lining up a big protest on Tuesday, no Left leader has yet publicly suggested that the Bengal government take another look at its own sales tax rate.

Such a suggestion did come today but from the wrong person. Petroleum minister Murli Deora said that though the Centre has been absorbing a part of the losses of the oil companies, the states have not done their bit and reduced the sales tax.

Deora singled out Bengal and Maharashtra. The Union minister’s focus on Bengal was not surprising, considering that the Left ' barring the Congress this time ' has been the most vocal against the price increase.

While picking out Maharashtra ' which charges Rs 12.92 (Rs 3.58 more than that in Bengal) a litre as sales tax on petrol ' Deora did not mention one fact. Maharashtra, Deora’s home state, is now ruled by his own party, the Congress. Neither did Deora say why a government ruled by his party is not practising what he is suggesting.

Not that Deora’s appeal was received with warmth in Bengal. “Let them change their stand first as per the demand made by the Left parties,” finance minister Dasgupta said in Calcutta.

The Prime Minister has asked Deora to explain to the Bengal chief minister the compulsions behind the price hike.

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