Cooking gas turned dearer on Wednesday, with the State-owned oil marketing corporations increasing domestic liquefied petroleum gas cylinder prices by ₹50 each. The commercial 19 kg LPG refill will now be more than ₹350 costlier.
The price of a 14.2 kg domestic cylinder for households has consequently shot up to ₹1,103 in Delhi; ₹1,102.50 in Mumbai; ₹1,118.50 in Chennai; and ₹1,129 in Kolkata.
Opposition political parties have slammed the hike, with several demanding a roll-back. The move by Indian Oil, BPCL and HPCL comes amid mounting fears over rising prices across the board, with home and car loans becoming more expensive and growing uncertainties about job security, especially in the technology sector. The latest LPG price hike follows close on the heels of the end of polling in a couple of northeastern States, just ahead of the Holi festival.
The three oil marketing corporations, who together command a lion’s share of the LPG market, had previously increased domestic LPG prices by an identical ₹50 per refill in July 2022. Barring those issued LPG connections under the Ujjwala scheme meant for economically weaker families, most households in India are either ineligible for or have given up their subsidy, and thus face the heat whenever prices are hiked.
Though the oil corporations are technically empowered to revise LPG prices every month, they tend to use this power more for commercial cylinders or the bigger refills used by establishments from tea stalls to restaurants. Following the latest revision, a 19-kg LPG cylinder costs ₹2,119.50 in Delhi; ₹2,071.50 in Mumbai; ₹2,268 in Chennai; and ₹2,221.50 in Kolkata.
‘Roll back hike’
The Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist) hit out at the Narendra Modi-led government over the LPG price hikes, demanding an immediate roll-back.
Addressing a press conference at Congress headquarters in Delhi, party spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said that the Union government could take lessons from Congress-ruled Rajasthan on how to keep cooking gas prices below ₹500.
In the nine years of the BJP regime, Mr. Vallabh said, the Union government had only paid a subsidy bill of ₹36,500 crore for LPG cylinders, while the Congress-led UPA government had paid ₹2.14 lakh crore in subsidies between 2004 and 2014.
“The loot does not end here. The Modi government imposed 5% GST over LPG cylinders and 18% for commercial gas. The reason for the dismal 4.4% GDP growth in the third quarter is that manufacturing is having a negative growth, a contraction of -1.1%, and the private consumption is not picking up,” he alleged, adding that this could not be the economic governance model of any democratic government.
‘Common man’s burden’
The CPI(M) Polit Bureau also strongly condemned the hike, saying that it further increased the burden on people who are already suffering due to an increase in the prices of food and essential commodities.
“With this hike, more people will drop out from using subsidised cooking gas cylinders as they simply cannot afford it. Already, over 10% of those under Ujjwala Yojana have not taken any refill cylinders during last year. Nearly 12% took only 1 refill. A total of 56.5% took only 4 or less refills against the minimum required annual average of 7+ cylinders, and against an entitlement of 12 cylinders per year,” the Polit Bureau statement said.
The party further pointed out that the price of commercial LPG cylinders have been increased for the second time this year. “This is bound to hike the input costs for all processed food products fuelling further price rise,” the party said. Noting that this “cruel hike” has come in the background of growing levels of unemployment, poverty and inflation in the country, the Polit Bureau demanded that it be rolled back immediately.