WITH FUEL consumption having gone down by 80 per cent in April in the state, the farm sector is the only hope for diesel and petrol pumps dealers in Punjab, where wheat harvesting began Wednesday. However, farmers are unhappy, and are asking why there has been just a minor dip in petrol and diesel prices even as the rate of crude oil has gone down by more than a third in the international market.
Even petrol pump dealers have said that in light of the drastic fall in crude oil prices internationally, the rates of fuel should have gone down more than half. They claimed that the Centre is benefiting the oil companies at the cost of farmers and other general consumers.
On Thursday, the rate of diesel and petrol in Jalandhar was Rs 61.37 per litre and Rs 69.65 per litre respectively, while this rate on January 20 was Rs 75.80 per litre and Rs 67.97 per litre for petrol and diesel respectively.
Similarly, the rate of crude oil in the international markets was $68 per barrel on January 20, which has come down to $20 per barrel now — around a 71 per cent drop. The rates of petrol and diesel have come down by 8 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, in the same period.
Paramjit Singh Sooch, a progressive farmers and farm expert, said that during the complete lockdown, it is only the agricultural sectors that are consuming fuel.
“When the rate of crude oil has gone down drastically at the international level, why is the government is charging such high rates from consumers, particularly the farmers, who are already reeling under the huge input costs,” said Sooch.
“Government is cheating the farm community and should explain why the rates of petrol/diesel are so high. Harvesting season is going on in which combine harvesters, tractor-trollies, trucks will be plying daily for harvesting and transportation of the wheat crop,” said Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Dakuanda general secretary Jagmohan Singh, adding that the state government should take up this matter seriously with the Centre and do away with taxes on the fuel so farmers can get some relief.
Earlier, farmers used to get oil in the harvesting season on a credit basis, but this time petrol pumps are refusing the same. “We demand Rs 2,000 to 3,000 per acre from the government for miscellaneous expenditure due to lockdown,” said Jagmohan.
He further said that to benefit oil companies, the Centre is not taking action, while farmers are forced to bear heavy fuel costs. Even the combine harvester’s average is around 3 km per litre of diesel, and apart from this, 25,000 tractor mounted straw reapers, which makes fodder from wheat straw, and lakhs of tractor trollies and nearly 70,000 trucks will ply to transport wheat from the field to mandis and mandis to godowns, respectively, added Jagmohan.
In the harvesting season, 17,500 combine harvesters operate in Punjab.
Gurmeet Monty Sehgal, the spokesperson of Petrol Pump Dealers Association Punjab, said, “There is no doubt that with the beginning of harvesting, the fuel sale in Punjab will go up manifold, but it is not enough to sustain the petrol pumps because the agriculture sector sale is only 30% of the total volume annually.” He admitted that with the slashing of rates in the international market, it would have gone down by more than half of the current price.
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