New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) The government Monday ruled out a roll back of its decisions to open up the retail industry and hike diesel prices even as some of its allies and an united opposition tested its resolve and promised more policy initiatives in the coming days.
"To my knowledge there is no question of any rollback (of diesel price hike)," Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said
Asked whether the government has risked its stability, he said, "I do not think government faces any threat. Government is stable. Our allies in the government and outside will understand and continue their support to the government. We will be able to convince our allies."
"I think clearly, political government knows what is doable and what is not doable. We have done what is doable," Chidambaram said while interacting with a select group of journalists.
The government hiked diesel price by a record Rs.5 per litre and opened the multi-brand retail and aviation sectors to foreign direct investment (FDI).
"These (price hike) were not only necessary but imperative to keep the economy moving. There are grave external and internal threats to the economy," said Chidambaram.
The opposition parties, trade unions and shopkeepers are set to hold a nationwide strike Thursday against the government's decisions.
Regarding fuel prices, the finance minister said that the country should accept the principle of market-linked commodity prices.
"We have to make corrections (to commodity prices) as they go along in the commodity market."
The petroleum ministry in a notice in leading English and regional language dailies said India needed to import 74 percent of its crude oil requirements at international rates, which had risen sharply and was compounded by the rupee's steep fall against the US dollar.
"Once we put it to the allies (about the economic constraints behind the decision) I'm sure they will understand. I can quote what Chief Minister West Bengal said the day before and I quote I understand the gravity of the economic crisis, unquote," Chidambaram said.
The oil ministry in its public notice said the state governments do not bear the subsidy burden and the record Rs.5 hike in diesel price will yield states an additional revenue of Rs.8,200 crore per annum. Therefore, it argued, the states can forgo this additional revenue to provide relief to the common man by lowering state taxes.
Earlier in the day West Bengal Panchyat minister Subrata Mukherjee accused the centre of attempting to destroy the country's federal structure by trying to block the limited avenues of states' incomes.
"I don't know the game plan behind this advertisement, but it is for sure they (union government) are trying to destroy the country's federal structure...Our party leader Mamata Banerjee will never allow this to happen," said Subrata Mukherjee.
However, alliance leader Congress party talks were on to bring allies around. "(We) appreciate her (Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee's) complusions. We remain hopeful," spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury told media persons.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government announced that it would subsidise three more cooking gas cylinders to those covered by its "Kerosene Free Delhi" scheme, in addition to the six LPG cylinders provided by the central government.