'Assam to cut taxes on fuel if high prices continue'

Assam ready to cut taxes on fuel if high prices continue: Himanta

On Friday, the prices of petrol and diesel in Guwahati were Rs 104.65 and Rs 97.24 respectively

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday said the state government is ready to cut its share of taxes on fuel if the current high prices continue. Assam government had earlier given a rebate of Rs 5 per litre and the fuel prices in Assam is one of the lowest in the country.

"If we need to reduce taxes (on fuel) further to give relief to the people of Assam, we will do that. But I do not want to do it on the basis of one month's result. If the high rates persist for a long time, then we will want to give relief. We do not want extra money," he said at a press conference here.

Sarma also said that the seven ethanol plants for blending the chemical with fuel will be set up in the state at an investment of Rs 1,500 crore to Rs 2,000 crore and agreements for these will be signed soon.

On Friday, the prices of petrol and diesel in Guwahati were Rs 104.65 and Rs 97.24 respectively. Sarma mentioned the statement by the union petroleum ministry that it is working to reduce the fuel prices and hoped that common people will get relief in the days to come.

"If at all the state government has to do something, we will do it. I want to assure the people of Assam that I do not want the extra tax. If this continues, whatever rebate we will have to give we will give. But the tax collection in Assam is not much. We will try to reduce the tax (on fuel) as per our capacity. We are with the common people ... What we can do to help is we can let go of the extra tax that we get if prices of fuel are increased," he added.

About the new investment proposals, Sarma said that after the new ethanol policy was adopted by the state Assam has got 14 proposals to set up rice-bran based ethanol plants for blending them with fuel. "Out of that, the Government of India and Assam Government jointly approved seven, which when completed will see an investment of around Rs 1,500 crore to Rs 2,000 crore. We will have an MoU signing ceremony soon. These are the biggest investment we got immediately after our (NDA) government came to power. We got some good companies," he added.

Sarma said that Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL), the largest in the northeast, is setting up a bamboo-based ethanol plant within its complex as part of its ongoing expansion project to ramp up its capacity from three million metric tonne per annum (MMTPA) to nine MMTPA at an investment of Rs 22,594 crore.

"Also upgradation work of Bongaigaon, Digboi and Guwahati refineries will begin. We may have two to three more investors for making ethanol because when the refining capacity increases, the ethanol requirement volume will also go up," he said.

Assam's scope in setting up ethanol plants is more as investors have not gone to other northeastern states. "So if these states allow Assam, then we might get four to five more plants as there is no raw material in those states. In the next stage we will start discussing with our neighbouring states," Sarma said. He said the country produces 20 per cent of the fuel and ethanol blending is allowed up to 20 per cent.

"So India will not depend on the international market for its 40 per cent of fuel which will be available in the domestic market itself. "By the end of this year we will be in a better position to look at the fuel prices after this ethanol blending is done," Sarma added.

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